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Not Who He Says He Is

A prominent advertising executive is accused of fraud and extortion

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UPDATE, June 10, 2013: As part of his lawsuit against Mohammad Hossein Kashef-Mobarakeh over their business transactions, Anthony Lucas filed a motion in Rutherford County Chancery Court disputing his authorship of the email mentioned in the article below. Chancellor Robert E. Corlew III ruled that Lucas was not the author of the email in question, on grounds that Kashef-Mobarakeh failed to put forth any proof that would dispute Lucas' assertion he did not write it. The ruling was made Nov. 29, 2012, but the order was not entered (and hence made available in the court file) until Feb. 4 of this year.

On March 28, 2008, the Nashville Business Journal featured a glowing profile of someone who calls himself Anthony Lucas. The story, titled “A Conversation with Anthony Lucas of La Vision Advertising,” is in a Q&A format, loaded with softball questions more appropriate for a gossip mag’s celebrity interview than the profile of a Nashville executive. Through questions such as, “Do you have pets?” and “What word best describes your leadership style?” NBJ readers learn that Lucas is a self-described “visionary” who likes to vacation in Ibiza, Spain, and takes “guilty pleasure” in eating a “whole box of Swiss chocolate.”

The piece also serves as an advertorial for Lucas’s company, La Vision Advertising, and his new Spanish-language newspaper, El Suceso. He is portrayed as a force to be reckoned with in the advertising community, a man with expertise in delivering the Spanish-language market to advertisers.

Unmentioned is the fact that Lucas does not speak Spanish or possess any significant Hispanic heritage. He is not from Spain, as he has led some in the Nashville business community to believe, and his real name—which police say is definitely not Anthony Lucas—has no echo or lilt of any Latin nation.

In fact, most of Anthony Lucas’ carefully constructed image is complete fiction. His name, age and address as printed in the NBJ are false, according to police reports, court documents and testimonials from those who have crossed his path. Lucas’s real name is Abbas Tehrani, and according to police records, he was born in Iran in August 1951, making him 56 years old—not 48, as reported in the NBJ.

The man calling himself Anthony Lucas has been accused of extortion at least twice, once in Arizona in 1999, and once in Williamson County, in July 2004. In that case, he threatened to have the wife and young son of Mohammad Hossein Kashef-Mobarekeh—one of his oldest friends from Iran—deported if the man didn’t give him $100,000. According to a police report, Kashef-Mobarekeh refused to pay up and Lucas responded by sending “muscle men” to intimidate Kashef-Mobarekeh. Around this same time, Lucas’s landlord Wally Folad went to Lucas’ place of business to collect $2,000 that Lucas owed him. According to police, Lucas threatened to shoot Folad in the head if he didn’t leave immediately, though Lucas disputes that allegation.

Eventually Lucas joined the board of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and used his position there to meet, and some say exploit, Hispanic business owners.

One of these, Marjorie Weller, runs the Miss Tennessee Latina pageant, and says that Lucas demanded that she turn over proceeds from her business simply because he’d registered the pageant’s name with the Secretary of State’s office.

Other Hispanic small business owners tell similar stories and have provided the Scene with threatening, barely literate emails that Lucas fired off when the owners wouldn’t acquiesce to his demands. A group of these business owners approached NBJ managing editor Garrison Wells to inform him about Lucas’ fraudulent claims. Those at the meeting say that Wells was receptive about their concerns and promised to look into the matter.

Wells did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Lucas is trying to expand his sphere of influence through interaction with local and state government.

Last year, Metro Public Works and the Human Relations Commission paid Lucas over $2,500 for an advertising campaign that included bus-bench ads.

Lucas, who says he became a U.S. citizen 15 years ago, admits he was born in Iran and uses a different name than the one his parents gave him. He says his name has been legally changed, though as recently as February 2006 he was arrested for driving without a license and booked under the name Abbas Tehrani.

He characterizes himself as the victim, saying he’s being “crucified” and accused falsely by business owners. “I’m tired of people making false accusations and not being able to back it up.”

The man calling himself Anthony Lucas arrived in Middle Tennessee from Arizona sometime between 2002 and 2003 and entered into a business agreement with Mohammad Hossein Kashef-Mobarekeh, who goes by Sam. A few years earlier, in Arizona, an extortion charge against Lucas was dismissed, though the details of that case are unclear.

Kashef-Mobarekeh has known Lucas for 45 years, and their families still live on the same block in Iran. At the time Lucas arrived here, Kashef-Mobarekeh had been in the U.S. for over five years and was managing a gas station and convenience store called Triune Discount and Tobacco in Williamson County, according to court documents. In 2003, Wally Folad, who owned the market, decided to sell out to Kashef-Mobarekeh, his longtime employee.

Kashef-Mobarekeh brought Lucas in on the deal. Lucas incorporated their partnership with the Tennessee Secretary of State, using the name Dadkhah Tehrani—another of his aliases, Kashef-Mobarekeh says. At the time, Lucas also was sponsoring Kashef-Mobarekeh’s application for a work visa so he could remain in the U.S. Their partnership seemed secure, but just seven months into the business venture, Kashef-Mobarekeh says that Lucas tried to extort him.

Before the visas for his family were ready, “Lucas decided to demand $100,000 from Mr. Kashef-Mobarekeh or he would write a letter to [immigration authorities] canceling the process,” says a police report from July 2004.

Lucas made the demand personally to Kashef-Mobarekeh and also followed up with an email. In the email, which was sent on April 8, 2004, Lucas wrote that he needed “50,000” for Kashef-Mobarekeh’s wife and “50,000” for his son, Amir. He also wrote that Kashef-Mobarekeh and his other son, Arash, would be “free.” Lucas did not use dollar signs or mention money explicitly but closed the message by writing, “This is not going to change nor will it go away…. It was going to be free, but not anymore.”

Kashef-Mobarekeh refused to pay, and according to police and court documents, that’s when the threats started. “Lucas now sends over ‘muscle men’ to try and get the money from [Kashef-Mobarekeh,]” says the police report. “When Mr. Kashef-Mobarakeh doesn’t pay them, they tell him bad things are going to happen.”

One of these so-called muscle men was Keith Boatman. Boatman later told the police that Lucas described Kashef-Mobarekeh’s eyeglasses and instructed Boatman to “bring the glasses back to him.”

Boatman says he thought at the time that he was doing a favor for his then-girlfriend’s mother, an acquaintance of Lucas’.

“I was trying to help her out,” he says, adding that he soon “found out that this was way over my head, that this was not what they said it was.”

As soon as he met and spoke with Kashef-Mobarekeh, Boatman realized he’d been deceived and offered to help in any way he could, later giving an extensive interview to the police.

When the police interviewed Lucas, he denied sending the email but acknowledged that it had been sent from his address. When they asked him about the references to “50,000” each for Kashef-Mobarekeh’s wife and son, “Lucas became very defensive” and stated that “50,000 did not state dollars and it could have made reference to chickens.”

Lucas lied to the police, telling a detective that his birthday was in August 1956, when in fact he was born in 1951. Detectives also uncovered two of Lucas’ aliases, Dadkhah Tehrani and Dadkhah Tehrani G.

In March 2005, police in Williamson County submitted their report to the district attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute the matter, in part because Kashef-Mobarekeh lives in Rutherford County, where he received the email.

In March 2007, Lucas sued Kashef-Mobarekeh for breach of contract relating to the Triune sale, and Kashef-Mobarekeh countersued. Kashef-Mobarekeh’s attorney says that Lucas has not pressed the lawsuit and the case is “fizzling out.”

Lucas says Kashef-Mobarekeh’s extortion claim is “absolutely false” and that he knows nothing of the “50,000,” speculating that someone may have somehow contrived and forged the email. As well, he claims ignorance about Boatman and says it’s news to him that Kashef-Mobarekeh filed a police report—even though police interviewed him about the matter.

“There was no money exchanged, asked for, talked about, period,” Lucas says. “I have never been convicted of any crime, by any court, anywhere in the world.”

By the time these legal machinations began, the man calling himself Anthony Lucas had moved on to other ventures. By August 2004, Lucas was on the board of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (THCC), a position that gave him credibility within the Nashville business community and access to potential clients for his business, La Vision Advertising.

Incidentally, the NBJ lists La Vision Advertising’s street address as 1718 Franklin Road in Franklin, though Franklin Road does not have address numbers that high. According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, La Vision is registered under the alias of G. Tirani, with the address of 1718 Church Road in the 37203 zip code. Again, there is no such address in Nashville, though 1718 Church Street is a U.S Post Office. What’s more, the NBJ gives a website for La Vision that leads to nowhere.

Marjorie Weller, who owns the franchise rights to the Miss Tennessee Latina pageant, says that Lucas approached her in 2007 and wanted to get involved in promoting the pageant. Almost immediately, Lucas told her he had registered a similarly named pageant (Miss Latina Tennessee) with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office and that she needed to give him all of the profits she had earned from the event. According to that office, simply reserving the trademark would give Lucas minimal power over the business, but Weller didn’t know that. “I was worried,” she says.

The worry quickly turned to fear as Lucas began sending her emails threatening legal action. She also began to receive phone calls and disturbing messages from him at all hours of the night. Weller also says that Lucas called her sponsors saying she was running her business illegally. As soon as she hired a lawyer, Lucas backed off, but she’s still scared of what he might do. “I don’t want him to come after us.”

Lucas feels he has done nothing wrong. “I own the name Miss Latina Tennessee,” he says. “I own it. I have registered it.” He denies leaving messages for her that were anything but kind. “I was more than nice,” Lucas says. He says that if Weller owns the franchise rights to the pageant, she should either pay him or take him to court.

Alba Gonzalez-Nylander, who runs a Nashville video production company, also met Lucas through the THCC, and in 2004 he helped her get a contract to shoot a public service announcement for the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security.

After she’d done the job, Lucas asked that she bill the client an extra $500 for his services as an agent. She attempted to pay Lucas, but her checks kept disappearing in the mail or the envelopes came back marked “undeliverable.” When Lucas and Gonzalez-Nylander arranged to meet, Lucas would never show up. Gonzalez-Nylander suspects that Lucas was destroying the checks and dodging her, so that he could claim he was never paid and file a lawsuit. Eventually, Lucas did file suit and Gonzalez-Nylander settled the matter by paying Lucas over $600.

“He was trying to use me and my client to get himself money,” she says. Recently, Lucas has been emailing her threatening messages.

“I am beginning to hear rumors and certain comments you have made,” he wrote in an email dated August 26, 2007. “I am planning to get to the roots of that (sic). I just hope you are not the one has been spreading these lies around (sic). I am sure you know the judicial system. You just did deal with it.”

When asked about Gonzalez-Nylander, Lucas denies he was being intentionally evasive when she tried to mail his payment. “Alba Gonzalez-Nylander was sued by me, and she had to pay.” He says she refused to give him his cut of the contract, so he took her to court and she paid him.

“These people,” Lucas says of his detractors, “let them put up or shut up.”

Meanwhile, one prominent Hispanic business owner who has dealt with Lucas fears him. “I am afraid for my personal safety,” she says, asking that her name not be used. “I don’t even have an alarm system in my home.”

Still, Lucas is seeking to increase his sphere of influence to include local and state government.

Last year, Lucas was tapped to help the Metro Human Relations Commission with an ad campaign. He also approached the state legislature’s Nashville delegation in February, making promises that he has yet to keep.

Rep. Janis Sontany says that though Lucas speaks no Spanish, he approached the delegation offering his expertise in setting up Spanish language classes. Sontany says that she and other Nashville legislators are getting complaints from constituents about Spanish-speaking immigrants getting involved in traffic accidents.

“He said, ‘I will help you work through any problems that you have and I will sponsor English classes’,” says Sontany. “I don’t think that any of us have heard from him since.”

Sontany describes Lucas’ attitude as somewhat cavalier. “He’s kind of an, ‘Oh trust me, I can help you,’ sort of guy,” she says.

Getting involved in politics and government seem to be part of Lucas’ master plan. In the NBJ article, Lucas is asked what goal he has yet to achieve. He answers, to “reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Lucas also told the NBJ that if his life were to be made into a movie, Robert Redford would best portray him.

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