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Victims' Religion in Alleged Real Estate Swindles

March 14, 1993

The article "Alleged Fraud Rocks Iranian Community" (Times, March 4) described alleged real estate swindles by Emanuel Sabet that victimized several of Sabet's friends and relatives. In describing Sabet's background, the story said: "After a stint as a co-owner of a wine and cheese shop in Tarzana, he began working as a real estate investor and loan broker, concentrating on a tight-knit, mostly Jewish community of Iranian emigres living on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley."

Later, the article discussed a pending lawsuit by several of the victims and stated: "Six clients represented by Ozello, all Iranian-American Jews, claim to have lost roughly $600,000 through a variety of illegal transactions."

Nothing in the article appears to justify the reference to the religion of the Iranian-Americans involved. Although reference is made to the "affinity fraud" aspects of the alleged scams, the affinity described appears to be based on the victims' Iranian origins and still does not explain the references to their religion.

We would not expect a reference to the religion of the perpetrators or victims of a crime to be highlighted unless the religion played some part in the story. In this case the reference appears gratuitous and inappropriate. In this time of increased fears of Balkanization of our society in general, unnecessary designations of people's ethnicity, religion or sexual preference should be discouraged. Fair reporting and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive concepts.

BARBARA H. BERGEN

Los Angeles

Bergen is associate Western states counsel of the Anti-Defamation League.

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