Former Billionaire Boys Club members Arben (Ben) Dosti and Reza Eslaminia were sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without possibility of parole for the extortion murder of Eslaminia's wealthy Iranian father in 1984.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Robert Miller handed down the sentences before a packed courtroom in Redwood City, where the two had been convicted in January of second-degree murder, kidnaping and extortion in the death of Hedayat Eslaminia, a former close associate of the late Shah of Iran.
Miller sentenced the two Los Angeles men, both 26, after hearing the defendants' attorneys and their mothers plead for leniency. He imposed the maximum sentence possible, he said, because "your crime included a great deal of thoughtful planning and execution."
Dosti and Eslaminia were part of a business and social fraternity--nicknamed the Billionaire Boys Club--of young men from prominent Southern California families. The members frequented Los Angeles' trendiest spots while operating increasingly shady business ventures out of swank West Hollywood offices. They also lost nearly $1 million in commodity trading and other investments.
The 56-year-old Eslaminia suffocated in a steamer trunk in what prosecutors called an extortion plan that went awry.
The defendants, along with BBC founder and mastermind Joe Hunt, intended to kidnap the older Eslaminia, who was living in the San Francisco Peninsula community of Belmont, according to testimony presented in a 64-day trial. They planned to transport him by pickup truck to West Los Angeles, torture him until he transferred his $30-million fortune to the group and then kill him, witnesses said.
Hunt drove the truck that transported the victim, whose skeletal remains were later found in Soledad Canyon in the Angeles National Forest. Hunt is already serving a sentence of life without parole in the 1984 murder of Beverly Hills con man Ron Levin and will go on trial for the Eslaminia murder Oct. 3.
"The tragedy of this is there are more victims than just Hedayat Eslaminia," said Deputy Atty. Gen. John Vance, who prosecuted the case. "The loving parents of Arben Dosti and the mother of Hedayat Eslaminia and all their friends, they're victims, too, because Arben Dosti and Reza Eslaminia turned their backs on them."
"I had never in my wildest dreams, even in my most demented dreams, imagined that I would be in a court of law pleading for my son's life," Rose Dosti, Arben's mother and a Los Angeles Times food writer, told the judge, according to wire service reports.
Mina Hakimi, Eslaminia's mother, who was divorced from the murder victim, said, "I believe Reza is a victim here, too. I believe my son is innocent."
Ben Dosti, in a prepared statement to the court, said, "I would never intentionally cause anyone harm. It was my blind trust in those I called my friends that has brought me to this position."
The two defendants showed little emotion as they were sentenced, although Eslaminia seemed to be fighting back tears as he looked back at his sobbing mother.
Attorneys for both men said they would file appeals.
"It's tragic when people throw away their lives," prosecutor Vance said, "like Dosti and Eslaminia did."