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Former Waters campaign rival arrested for misusing funds


Omar Navarro once ran for 43rd Congressional District

A Torrance man who was a candidate for a Los Angeles County congressional seat in four elections has been charged with misusing campaign funds, including funneling tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations back to himself through friends and family.

Omar Navarro, 34, is charged in a 43-count Los Angeles federal grand jury indictment. He is currently in state custody on unrelated charges but, at press time, was expected to be turned over soon to federal authorities, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

As part of the case, FBI agents on Sept. 27 arrested Dora Asghari, 59, of Torrance, who is Navarro's mother, and Zacharias Diamantides-Abel, 34, of Long Beach, who is a friend of Navarro, both of whom are accused of conspiring with Navarro to convert campaign donations to personal use.

Navarro unsuccessfully campaigned in the four most recent election cycles to represent south Los Angeles County residents in California's 43rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. That seat is held by Rep. Maxine Waters.

All three defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy. Navarro is charged with 13 counts of wire fraud, 26 counts of falsification of records, and three counts of prohibited use of campaign funds. Asghari is charged with six counts of wire fraud. Abel is charged with two counts of wire fraud.

The indictment returned on Sept. 14 and unsealed two weeks later alleges that Navarro, from September 2017 through July 2020, illegally funneled campaign cash to himself. The indictment outlines a scheme in which Navarro allegedly made payments from his campaign to various individuals–including his mother and Abel–and then directed the transfer of cash back to himself for personal use.

Navarro also allegedly used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including trips to Las Vegas and wine country, as well as two criminal defense attorneys. According to the indictment, Navarro later falsely reported these expenditures as campaign expenses to the Federal Election Commission.

Federal prosecutors contend that Asghari and Abel concealed Navarro's misdirection of campaign funds by frequently cashing the checks rather than depositing them into their personal bank accounts. If they deposited the check, they often withdrew the funds shortly thereafter to share with Navarro, the indictment alleges.

In total, from December 2017 to June 2020, Abel and Asghari allegedly received $49,260 and $58,625, respectively, from Navarro's campaign, according to checks he wrote or caused to be written to them. According to the indictment, Asghari also created a shell company to facilitate her receipt of these campaign payments and transfers back to Navarro and his own shell company.

The indictment alleges that from January 2018 through July 1, 2020, Navarro deposited over $100,000 in cash into his personal accounts, even though he had no other source of income aside from the campaign funds, and that he frequently made deposits after Abel or Asghari cashed campaign checks.