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Ex-Billionaire Boys Club member sought in vehicular manslaughter

A recent booking photo of Reza Eslaminia, sought by San Francisco officials after allegedly hitting and killing a pedestrian while driving a taxi last year.
(San Francisco district attorney’s office)
<i>This post has been corrected, as noted below.</i>

San Francisco prosecutors are looking for a former member of the Billionaire Boys Club accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian while driving a taxi last year.

San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón announced Thursday that Reza Eslaminia, 52, was being sought for the Aug. 11 death of Edmond Capalla in the city’s Tenderloin District. An arrest warrant for Eslaminia was issued March 29.

Prosecutors allege Eslaminia, who worked for Luxor Cab, sped through a red light and was struck by another vehicle, causing his taxi to spin out of control and hit Capalla in a crosswalk. He faces one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. Gascón said prosecutors had video evidence, diagrams and witness statements, but found there was insufficient evidence for felony charges.

“I want to ensure Mr. Eslaminia is quickly brought to justice and is held accountable for the death of Mr. Capalla,” Gascón told The Times on Thursday. “Eslaminia has shown a complete disregard for the lives of others and I consider him to be dangerous.”

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Sources said Eslaminia may be in Southern California.

The Billionaire Boys Club was an investment and social club created in the 1980s by young men from prominent Southern California families. The group was fascinated by fast cars, designer clothes, trendy nightclubs and get-rich-quick schemes.

When funds ran out, however, the schemes allegedly turned deadly.

Eslaminia was convicted in the 1984 kidnapping and murder of his father -- a once-wealthy businessman and high-ranking Iranian official -- in what prosecutors said was an extortion plot to salvage the club’s funds. He was sentenced to life in prison, along with another club member.

But the convictions were overturned in 1998, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the jury’s inadvertent exposure to a police interview with Eslaminia’s brother contained statements that were “very prejudicial” and may have resulted in the guilty verdict.

Prosecutors attempted to retry Eslaminia’s case, but it was ultimately dismissed after the star witness -- a former member of the club in the witness protection program -- declined to provide his new identity or address.

The club’s founder, Joe Hunt, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 slaying of a con man who duped him. He later sought a new trial, claiming the victim faked his own death and was still alive.

Eslaminia’s attorney for the appeal, Quin Denvir, told The Times on Thursday he was no longer representing him and had no comment.

[For the record, 12:06 p.m. May 9: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Eslaminia’s taxi was struck by a bus, causing him to spin out of control and hit a pedestrian. His taxi was hit by another car.]

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com


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