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Law and Order, On the Coast, Odds and Ends and Pole Position

Columnist: Bill Meagher
June, 2009 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

Over the last few months, the business beat has, at times, resembled the old crash-and-crimes niche from my newspaper days. For the most part, it’s been white collar crime, but then again, it’s Marin. Any place with this much money is always going to be bait for the certain few who know their way around a dollar and the law.

Take Hassan Keshari, the former owner of Kesh Air International. The export business worked out of a small office in Novato’s Bel Marin Keys before the Feds stepped in. Keshari was indicted in Miami for allegedly violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the United States Iran Embargo and the Arms Control Act. Five different federal agencies got together to arrest Keshari for essentially selling and sending aircraft parts to Iran and lying about it.

The grand jury indictments out of South Florida charged that Keshari and Traian Bujduveanju, who owned Orion Aviation Corporation, teamed up. Neither Keshari nor Bujduveanju are licensed to purchase the parts in question, which are designated for use exclusively by the military. Keshari arranged to purchase the parts through Bujduveanju for Cobra attack helicopters as well as F-14 Tomcat fighters. The parts were then shipped to Dubai, then on to Iran.

Keshari took a deal and faces a maximum of five years downtime, courtesy of Uncle Sam, as well as a fine of up to $750,000.

Lucasfilm is hoping the Force is with it, as the company has been sued for job bias in a wrongful firing lawsuit. Julie Gilman Vernose (through her attorney, Angela Alioto) alleges that Lucasfilm Ltd. offered her a $75,000-a-year job as George Lucas’ personal assistant, but took the offer off the table after Vernose revealed she was expecting twins. California law stipulates pregnant women are a protected class when it comes to retaliatory firings.

According to Vernose, she was supposed to start work last year, but three days before the job began, she revealed she was pregnant. After the admission, the lawsuit alleges, the job offer was rescinded. For the record, the company says the suit is completely without merit.

Shareholders in Marin’s Residential Mortgage Capital have brought a lawsuit against the firm’s principals, who allegedly used the firm’s assets for personal gain, hired friends and relatives for no-show jobs and made sweetheart loans to family and friends. The company consisted of First Security Loan Corporation, a mortgage brokerage, as well as a private mortgage bank. The bank shut down last year, and First Security locked its doors in April.

James Chapman and Thomas Halbach, CEO and president of the company, respectively, are named in the legal action brought by Regina and William Seaborg of Mill Valley and Susan and Dominic Pomilla of San Rafael. All four were mortgage brokers at First Security when Residential Mortgage Capital was created. The lawsuit alleges that the four were persuaded to merge First Security with Residential Mortgage and become shareholders.

The coast is the most

Tomales Bay Oyster Company is under new ownership. Longtime owner Drew Alden has sold the operation to Tod Friend, owner of Marshall Store and a fellow oyster grower.

The merger of the two growers has resulted in a number of Tomales Bay employees being let go to make way for Marshall Store staff. The new owner is hoping to expand the market for his oysters to Napa, San Francisco and the East Bay.

West Marin carries a reputation for producing everything from organic beef to natural dairy products and certified organic veggies, but now a Florida company is looking at whether it might be able to harvest the coastal wind as well.

Next Era Resources, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light, is talking to ranchers and farmers about whether they might be willing to have large wind turbines installed on their land to generate power from the wind.

Next Era operates the wind farm on the Altamont Pass, and it cautions that, right now, the company is simply trying to gauge rancher interest and whether there’s enough wind to make the farms pencil out.

In the past, the McEvoy Ranch north of Novato sought to install a 246-foot turbine, but incurred the wrath of neighbors concerned with noise as well as bird endangerment. The ranch won permission from the county for a 150-foot structure, but has yet to build it. Depending on the location of the turbines, Next Era would have to win approval from the California Coastal Commission.

The wind farm could present farmers and ranchers with a non-agricultural revenue source at a time when many family farms are struggling to make ends meet through traditional market strategies.

This and that

Lark Creek Inn, the venerable eatery in Larkspur that launched Chef Bradley Ogden’s mini-food empire, is going downscale a little. Recognizing that diners are spending less going out for dinner, the destination restaurant is revamping its menu and wine list to reflect more value, as well as renaming itself “The Tavern at Lark Creek.” Look for simpler dishes that top out at $15 a plate and more wines by the glass—think neighborhood spot and less dressy…San Rafael Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tallia Hart is out of here, flying the coop for lovely Irvine, Calif. The 35-year-old Hart has been in charge of the San Rafael Chamber for almost four years. The Irvine chamber boasts 1,000 members, just 100 more than San Rafael’s membership. But Irvine has 200,000 residents and a commuter population of another 200,000. Besides the population difference between San Rafael and Irvine, Hart will also have to deal with a cultural shift, literally going from left to right.




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