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Middle Man

How Did The Co-Founders of Hollywood in a Bottle Meet?
Lawrence "Lorenzo" Reeves and LaVern Whitt

By Jeffrey Anderson | Posted 11/12/2008

Hollywood producer and filmmaker LaVern Whitt was distressed to receive a call from City Paper in late August about her association with Lawrence "Lorenzo" Reeves, a Baltimore man who had just been indicted in federal court in an alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy. Whitt was making a documentary about the women who run Baltimore's City Hall, and Reeves had just invested money in Whitt's separate venture called Hollywood in a Bottle LLC, aimed at helping youngsters get into the entertainment business ("The Company You Keep," Mobtown Beat, Sept. 10).

"What does Lorenzo have to do with anything, I just met him five months ago," Whitt told City Paper at the time, adding that a man she met at a Los Angeles Mercedes dealership named "Jason" had introduced her to Reeves, whom she found to be "a cool brother."

Weeks later, a federal prosecutor introduced wiretap evidence in court that described an unnamed Los Angeles car dealer providing luxury vehicles to members of the alleged Reeves conspiracy in exchange for drug cash ("And Then There Were Eight," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 1). Since then, multiple law-enforcement sources in Maryland and Los Angeles have confirmed that an L.A.-area car dealer named Farzan Farmani has leased luxury vehicles to members of the alleged Reeves conspiracy. Some of these sources also confirm that LaVern Whitt and Reeves know each other by virtue of their individual relationships with Farmani, who goes by "Jason."

City Paper has tried to determine whether the unnamed car dealer described in federal court recently and Farmani are one and the same. The U.S. Attorney's Office would neither confirm nor deny that they are. LaVern Whitt has referred all questions to criminal-defense attorney Warren Brown, who did not return calls.

Los Angeles Superior Court records confirm that Farmani is in the luxury-car business. Since June he has had three lawsuits filed against him alleging breach of car-lease agreements. In one of those cases, Farmani leased a 2006 Aston Martin and allegedly failed to make payments totaling $164,000. "It's a classic case of guy rents car, guy doesn't pay rent," says Steven Ernest, lawyer for the plaintiff, Cab West LLC, a finance company that served Farmani at his parents' home in Los Angeles. A call to that home was answered by Farmani's brother Faryar "Tony" Farmani, a San Diego-based lawyer. "Why do you want to talk to Jason?" Tony Farmani says. "I don't have any information I can give you. He doesn't want to talk to you."

A second lawsuit on file in Los Angeles alleges default by Farmani on five Mercedes Benz leases to the tune of more than $800,000. The plaintiff is also seeking conversion damages in excess of $700,000, which means the vehicles have not been returned or were subleased without authorization. The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a restraint against one of the vehicles, a 2007 Mercedes Benz S550, according to court records, and instructed anyone in possession of it to contact the police.

The general manager of Keyes European, the Van Nuys, Calif., car dealer that leased the five Mercedes to Farmani, says he knows the man but declines to answer questions. "He bought the cars, what he does after that is his business," says the general manager, who also declines to give his name. "That's none of your business," he says.

Additional reporting by Van Smith

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Tags: hollywood in a bottle, Lawrence \"Lorenzo\" Reeves, shadow economy

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