The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday accused a Beverly Hills firm of defrauding investors of some $20 million in a scheme that allegedly targeted Iranian-Americans through a local Farsi-language radio program.

The SEC said it had sued NewPoint Financial Services Inc. and three of its officers, accusing co-owner John Farahi, 52, of touting the investments while hosting a daily business show on radio station KIRN-AM (670), which caters to Los Angeles’ large Persian community. Also named in the complaint are Farahi’s wife and firm co-owner, Gissou Rastegar Farahi, 54, and controller Elaheh Amouei, 54, of Thousand Oaks.

The SEC suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleged more than 100 people had invested since 2003. More than $18 million was lost on risky options trading in 2008 and 2009 alone, and other money was used to build a Beverly Hills mansion for the Farahis, the suit alleges.

Radio listeners of Farahi’s show were encouraged to call NewPoint to discuss the firm’s conservative investment opportunities. Many investors were falsely told that they were investing in FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, government bonds, or corporate bonds issued by companies backed by funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the suit alleges.

“They lured victims with false promises of investment safety while secretly enriching themselves and diverting investor funds for their personal use,” said Rosalind R. Tyson, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles regional office, which obtained a court order freezing the company's assets.

Farahi's attorney, Gary Lincenberg, declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press.

Read the SEC complaint.

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