Dumb cops and dumb reporters have a lot in common. They plod along gathering the facts, just the facts M’am, and they hope that sooner or later that they’ll stumble across something or get a tip and it will become clear what’s going on.
It was that kind of break that took me up the long winding road with its switchbacks to the top of Topanga Canyon high in the Santa Monicas looking for Javier Ovando and his mansion.
Unlike the hippie shacks and cabins and old compounds down below that give Topanga its character, the houses on top of the ridge
are new and modern and large. Ovando’s house at 21126 Bellini Drive sits on a hillside at the end of a cul-de-sac lined with luxury homes.
It was clearly deserted and looked like it had been for a while. Trash filled half a dozen garbage cans and several boxes behind the gate to the property.
Ovando is L.A.’s ultimate victim, the central figure in what became known as the Rampart Scandal.
On Oct. 12, 1996, LAPD Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden entered apartment of the then 19-year-old illegal immigrant gang member and shot him in the head, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Then, they framed him and got him sentenced to 23 years in prison. He was released three years later and on Nov. 21, 2000, his attorney Gregory Moreno won him a $15 million settlement — the largest ever from the LAPD.
The money got him this 6,000 square-foot house but it didn’t restore his ability to walk or let him find a happy life.
Once again, he was a victim, according to the tip I got that sent me to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station on Agoura Road.
“Suspicious circumstances possible grand theft,” according to the Sheriff’s Department report dated Oct. 16, just 12 years and four days after Perez and Durden shot him.
The investigation involved the alleged theft of some $60,000 in property from the house — four crystal chandeliers, a fireplace mantel, a pool table, a microwave, 35 door knobs, 20 curtains, three trash cans and a mailbox among other items.
Ovando’s sister-in-law Angelica Martin reported what had happened to deputies but she wouldn’t put them in touch with Ovando himself.
That didn’t sit well with Deputies Diestel and Braden who took down her complaint and said she was “evasive,” and told them that Ovando “had become mentally ill due to the burglary and could not be reached by anyone.”
“Martin told me the suspect in the theft was Nadya Mahdavi AKA Hena Alvi Wall St. Financial Group,” the deputies reported.
That’s what had gotten my interest.
Mahdavi, president of Wall Street Financial with offices in Encino, Fidelity Investment Group, another company that lists her as an officer, are charged with four misdemeanor Building and Safety code violations involved the conversion of a single family home in my Valley floor tract into a tenement with three apartments and a dozen or so rooms in a 2,000 square-foot house.
The case has dragged on for months as the ownership flipped from Mahdavi to her employee at Wall Street to Fidelity. She had failed to appear the first time she was due in court and had to put up $5,000 cash bail when a warrant for her arrest was issued. She made it to the court the second but pleaded poverty and wanted a Public Defender, a request that was denied.
She appeared in court Thursday afternoon with attorney Gerald Cobb and
was granted another continuance and is due back on Dec. 17 — nearly 10
months after conversion of the house on Haynes Street in Woodland Hills
began without a permit.
The sheriff’s report makes no mention of Mahdavi being interviewed about what happened at the house on Bellini Drive and concludes: “I was unable to determine if a crime had occurred. I was unable to contact the owner of the location or verify if Javier Ovando had any connection to the property.”
Deputies did determine that a restraining order was issued against the 31-year-old Ovando at the request of Mahdavi.
My next step was to call Martin who insisted she gave deputies all the information she had but Ovando was in no condition to talk. The trauma of what had happened was too much for him.
He had put the house up for sale in the spring, she said, and Mahdavi and her husband Nasir Shaikh had agreed to buy it for about $2 million through a local real estate agent. They put some earnest money into an escrow account but even before the sale went through, the couple and their family moved into the house.
The sale never was completed and they stayed there until early October when they left after an eviction order was issued. In the intervening months, she said, a dispute arose over demands for what she said was an exorbitant commission for the sale and that’s when Ovando went to the house and the incident occurred that led to the restraining order.
“They accused him of making a terrorist threat,” said attorney Moreno, who got involved about the time of the incident.
He’s still talking to the District Attorney’s Office about charges Ovando faces over his run-in with Mahdavi on June 22 and for leading police on an hour-long high-speed chase a week later in Glendale.
He also is sharing with investigators the information he has gathered about what happened atop the ridge above Topanga Canyon and the sale of the house the Rampart Scandal bought for Javier Ovando.
To be continued…