A former nightclub promoter who was charged with torture, kidnapping, and other violent crimes says he is the victim of a set-up by a detective who is now the target of an FBI investigation.
Arman Izadi was busted in 2013 and faced life in prison for running what was described as a major prostitution ring based in Las Vegas nightclubs. The charges were later dropped.
Izadi came forward after seeing our I-Team report last week about a federal investigation of the local sex trafficking industry.
A homemade video helped cement the public’s image of Arman Izadi. It includes all the stereotypes of a rap video. Girls and guns and Izadi acting like a gangster.
“In the case of the music video titled “Moo-ha-ha”, it’ a Halloween joke video where the premise was, I was a super villain,” Izadi said. “And it’s funny. It’s not a serious thing, however because it is super villain themed, a great screen shot to take if you’re trying to convey someone as a super pimp.”
Which is exactly what happened. The video got a lot of air time when Izadi was arrested in April 2013. His mugshot was plastered everywhere with a shopping list of violent felonies attached, including beating, torturing, and kidnapping three women who said he forced them to work as prostitutes in local nightclubs. The arrest had been spearheaded by Metro’s star vice cop Chris Baughman.
“What we have in this case are solid victims who had horrific experiences with him. We will use those victims to get our conviction on him,” Baughman said in a 2013 interview.
But that’s not how things worked out. Izadi is not a tough guy. He describes himself as a chubby party animal who likes to drink, schmooze and crowd-surf nightclubs in a banana costume. But he spent 20 months in county lockup awaiting trial.
“Arman was facing 20 charges, 20 felony charges, exposing him to a life sentence,” said Michael Cristalli, Izadi’s attorney.
And then, poof, it went away. Prosecutors offered to drop the 19 most serious charges if Izadi would plead no contest to one count of pandering. He was set free for time served. So, what happened? Attorneys Michael Cristalli and Vincent Savarese filed discovery motions. They wanted to see the chain of custody for the evidence that had been gathered. It was not a fishing expedition.
“I got to believe that they did know what we we’re looking for,” said Vincent Savarese, Izadi’s attorney.
“We knew there was some material that they did not want to deal with,” Cristalli said.
Reporter George Knapp: “And can you say, is it material dealing with the investigative techniques of Detective Baughman?”
Attorney Michael Cristalli: “I would say that would be safe to assume.”
The attorneys say the District Attorney’s office did the right thing once it they realized there was a problem with the case, so what was it?
Izadi says that when he was arrested at his penthouse, agents from the FBI and IRS were present, along with Metro’s Chris Baughman. Izadi says a heated argument erupted after he informed the feds that Baughman had tried but failed to bust him in an elaborate sting staged two years earlier.
“I mentioned, this guy has run a sting operation on me before and knows I’m legit. They were completely surprised. It didn’t seem like information they knew,” Izadi said.
The agents left the apartment and no federal charges were ever filed. It now appears to have been a major turning point. Prior to Izadi’s arrest, federal agencies worked closely with Baughman’s team to take down high-profile pimps, such as Ocean Fleming and Micah Duncan aka Wheelchair Mike. But when the FBI raided the home of music producer and outcall kingpin Mally Mall in 2014, Metro’s vice team was not invited along or even told in advance. Multiple law enforcement sources have told the I-Team that both Metro and the FBI learned that detective Baughman had developed a friendship with Mally Mall, and that he also admitted to being romantically involved with several women who worked for and agreed to testify against pimps who were targeted by Baughman’s investigations.
“If he is engaged in a sexual and personal relationship with the alleged victim, she may be more inclined to testify along the lines of his expectations and that is where the witness loses objectivity,” Savarese said.
Izadi lost everything. He served almost two years awaiting a trial that never came and is now barred from the nightclubs he once ruled. He thinks that what happened to Baughman around the time his charges were dropped is no coincidence.
“When I was offered the deal, I read in the newspaper the same week that he was retired,” Izadi said.
Chris Baughman left the force in 2014 and later applied for reinstatement, but Metro said no thanks.
Baughman has been unavailable for comment about our reports. He has not been charged with any crime.
Arman Izadi and his attorneys say they will consider their legal options as more about the FBI investigation unfolds. The I-Team will have further updates soon.