More than half a decade after Koreatown lender Mirae Bank collapsed under the weight of millions of dollars of bad loans, a former executive has been charged with criminal fraud over actions that allegedly helped bring down the bank.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday arrested Ataollah “John” Aminpour, who bank regulators said was responsible for more than half of the bad loans that led to Mirae’s failure in 2009.
He’s charged with six counts of bank fraud and two counts of lying to his former employer. Each charge comes with a maximum sentence of 30 years.
According to the indictment, Aminpour, Mirae’s former chief marketing officer, caused the bank to issue more than $150 million in loans to unqualified borrowers between 2005 and 2009.
Though he worked for the bank, prosecutors allege Aminpour acted as a kind of intermediary between borrowers and Mirae, providing loan officers at the bank with false information about borrowers’ assets and inflating the value of the businesses they planned to buy.
Many of the loans went bad, costing Mirae $33 million, “a significant factor in Mirae Bank’s failure,” according to the indictment. Though the loans cost the bank, prosecutors allege Aminpour walked away with at least $1.4 million in commissions.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. brought civil allegations against Aminpour in 2013 over the failure. The parties reached a settlement in which Aminpour agreed to pay $400,000, though he did not admit wrongdoing.
Kerry Quinn, an assistant U.S. attorney on the case, said that settlement does not resolve the new criminal charges. She added that the Justice Department “has some concerns he was not entirely forthright with the FDIC.”
The federal charges are the latest development in a years-long saga involving Aminpour and his twin brother, Saeid “Steve” Aminpour, and their dealings with L.A.'s Korean American banks.
Saeid Aminpour was pushed out of Koreatown lender Wilshire Bank in 2010 amid fraud allegations that later led to the ouster of the bank’s chief executive. He has not been charged criminally.
Both brothers specialized in making loans to the owners of buyers of gas stations and car washes in the Los Angeles area. They both targeted borrowers who, like the Aminpours, were members of the region’s Persian Jewish community.
An arraignment and bail hearing for Ataollah Aminpour was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles federal court. His attorney did not return calls for comment.
Quinn said she is concerned that he could be a flight risk. Records provided by her office show he took out a $5-million loan against his Beverly Hills residence late last month.
“If you have that kind of money, and you’re facing potentially the rest of your life in prison, there are concerns that could lead to incentives to flee,” she said.