Tinkerer, Lawyer, Hustler, Lies: One Man’s Path to a Dope Fortune

In the spring of 2010, exasperated police detectives from all over Los Angeles began phoning the county’s consumer affairs department to complain that an outfit calling itself the Active Lawyers Referral Service had misled its working-class customers from 2005 to 2008 by referring them to a law firm that billed them for work—but never finished the job. Their tales got positively woolly: Several claimed that Pejman Vincent Mehdizadeh, the founder of the referral service and the manager of the law firm, had posed as a lawyer and his father, Parviz, had given them legal advice as they sought work visas. (Pejman and Parviz use the names Vincent and Paul, respectively, for business.)

Three years later the consumer affairs unit, along with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, sought to prosecute Vincent Mehdizadeh, who, after months of wrangling, pleaded no contest to various criminal charges. He consented to pay $450,000 in restitution to his victims, thereby avoiding a four-year sentence in a California state penitentiary. (His father, Parviz, pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor charge.)

Ordinarily the playbook for those who have narrowly avoided a hefty prison sentence is standard: Assume a lower profile, make amends and go about getting life in order.