LAPD moves on fraud suspect, SFPD waits

September 1, 2009 11:44:22 AM PDT
In May of last year, Hossein Vaheid complained to San Francisco police that a former employee was raiding the bank accounts of his small window and glass business. Even though he says he lost $50,000-$60,000, the fraud unit never launched an investigation.

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"In the beginning, I was very angry, but I gave up, it's just like, 'the hell with it, let me go with my life, what can I say,'" Hossein Vaheid said.

That former employee, Eddie Feinstein was in Los Angeles superior court Monday, facing felony charges for pulling the same thing at a business in Southern California.

"There are two counts of grand theft for different periods of time and there is one count so far of identity theft," Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Emily Cole said.

After Feinstein left Vaheid's business in San Francisco, he went to work as office assistant for Sharon Zabala's mobile pet cleaning business in Los Angeles. She says Feinstein set up her accounting system so the company deposits went into his personal account.

Zabala says she lost more than $100,000.

"I've lost customers when I explained to them what happened, I'm filing personal bankruptcy as a result of it, I had to take business loans to keep the business afloat, I had to borrow money," Zabala said.

Zabala and Vaheid are frustrated and angry, not only with Feinstein, but with San Francisco police. Some of their losses might have been avoided if they had taken action last year, when the complaint first came in.

"I'm happy and pleased that the LAPD caught up with this guy and by the same token, San Francisco PD falling behind," Vaheid said.

"We have a really, really large case load," Lieutenant Jones Wong of the San Francisco Police Department Economic Crimes Unit said.

As the I-Team first reported in September, the fraud unit lost 11 inspectors during Chief Heather Fong's term. They are now down to just eight.

As a result, the backlog has climbed to more than 100 cases.

When the I-Team went to the unit on Friday, Wong announced that after 15 months, Vaheid's case had finally made it to the top of the list.

"He's actually next up, I mean, it took us this long to get to it, that's just because of man, staffing problems that we have here, but he's actually next up," Wong said.

Dan Noyes: "The inspector told me that your case is now at the top of the cue finally."

Vaheid: "Well, I didn't see any action towards that."

As of Monday afternoon, Vaheid still has not heard from the SFPD.

The department is going through a top-down reorganization. The fraud unit is now called the Economic Crimes Unit to reflect the wide range of crimes they investigate, including elder fraud and identity theft.

"This particular unit will get additional people, but a lot of our investigative units are going to get additional people in the next few months," SFPD Chief George Gascon said.

Gascon told the I-Team late Monday the department has to do better.

Noyes: "There's a perception that the LAPD got the case done when the SFPD could not."

Gascon: "Well, I think we have to be careful because I don't enough about the LA case, LA made it on another case, we do have a problem with communication, specifically with this case, and we're going to get to the bottom of it."

Per capita, the LAPD has more than four times as many fraud inspectors as the SFPD. Feinstein is headed for trial. The I-Team's first investigation is part of the criminal complaint against him as the prosecutor says it shows a pattern.

BLOG: The Fraud Unit and the New Chief

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