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Husband of slain woman held in FBI case

James Fayed, whose wife was stabbed in Century City, is arrested on charges related to their gold trading company.

August 03, 2008|Scott Glover and Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writers

The husband of a woman stabbed to death in the parking garage of a Century City high-rise last week was arrested late Friday on federal charges related to the international gold trading company he ran with his wife, an FBI spokeswoman confirmed Saturday.

FBI agents took James Fayed into custody at his home in a remote area of Ventura County, said spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Fayed was taken to Ventura County Jail and is expected make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court this week. Eimiller declined to specify the charges against Fayed.

But another source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk about the matter, said Fayed had been indicted as a result of an FBI fraud investigation. He was arrested after searches of his home and business, the source said.

Fayed's wife, Pamela, was attacked by a man with a knife on Monday in the parking garage of a Century City office complex where she had been visiting a lawyer, investigators said.

Los Angeles police detectives investigating Pamela Fayed's slaying have been looking for possible links between her death and the couple's jointly owned companies, Goldfinger Coin and Bullion Sales and an associated Internet firm, e-Bullion, law enforcement sources have said. Police searched James Fayed's home looking for evidence in the murder investigation earlier this week, the anonymous source said.

Mark Werksman, Fayed's attorney and a former federal prosecutor, said he was troubled by the timing of his client's arrest.

"They accelerated this as a result of Pam's death on Monday," he said. "I believe they are using this as a tactic to apply pressure at a time when he is most vulnerable because of this tragedy that he suffered."

James Fayed filed for divorce in October, and the couple had since fought bitterly over control of the companies.

Pamela Fayed said in court papers that the couple had bank accounts worth $12 million and that her husband was blocking her access to their business records. She asked the court for "ground rules to protect our clients and personal assets."

James Fayed alleged in a court filing that his wife "has a history of making false accusations" and threatened "to throw me in jail." He said that when he contemplated divorce in 2002, Pamela told him she would retaliate by falsely claiming that he had assaulted her and sexually assaulted one of their daughters.

The couple had two children, an 18-year-old daughter from Pamela's first marriage, and a 12-year-old daughter, whom they had together.

The Fayeds' companies function as wholesalers of precious metals and provide trading services to individuals who wish to invest in gold and silver without the cost of storing, insuring and transporting bullion. Goldfinger and e-Bullion say they maintain their own bullion vaults in Los Angeles, Delaware, Switzerland and Australia.

The companies say in their literature that they allow account holders to access their funds through wire transfers and even debit cards that can be used at ATMs to "convert gold to cash," as an e-Bullion executive put it in a 2002 news release. Such arrangements typically appeal to people with strong doubts about the stability of the international monetary system and who believe they are insulating their wealth from a global collapse by tying it to the value of gold.

Rick Copelan, president of the Better Business Bureau for Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, said e-Bullion has an "F" rating, primarily because of "16 unanswered complaints going back as far as 36 months."

One former client who's not complaining is Stephen Leeper, who said in an interview that he invested $10,000 with e-Bullion and got a return of a little more than $30,000 in less than five months.

"It's almost unheard of," said Leeper, a Northern California U.S. postal employee who also works in real estate. "I couldn't get anything close to that at the bank."

As the Fayeds' marriage crumbled, Pamela was seeking to have the family business treated as a separate entity as it related to their divorce proceedings, according to court filings.

She said she was doing so because she feared her husband was trying to hide some of their assets and stash stores of gold and silver in secret vaults. Pamela Fayed was killed on the eve of a court hearing at which the issue was expected to be addressed.

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scott.glover@latimes.com

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein, Steve Chawkins, Michael Hiltzik and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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