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Inside LA's greatest family feud: Warring brothers. Blood betrayal. Billions at stake

Noah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Four brothers gathered in silence in the Los Angeles courtroom to hear the jury’s verdict. The decision came after 20 years of legal maneuvering by the brothers — bitter decades filled with accusations of fraud, intimidation and betrayal.

At issue was whether two of the brothers had struck an oral agreement nearly 30 years ago. Such a contract would determine ownership of vast real estate holdings worth billions, one of the highest stakes ever seen in a Los Angeles civil courtroom. One brother swore the contract existed; another denied it ever happened.

What might have been an uplifting story of an immigrant who soared to the pinnacle of American wealth had devolved into a saga embroiling not just the siblings but their mother as well.

And now, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, jurors filed into the courtroom where they had heard the story of a young man who had left his family in India and improbably had made, and possibly lost, a fortune.

It had all started with an opalescent rock.

Shashikant Jogani had a $250 moonstone to sell.

 

Shashi, as he is known, was attending USC in the early 1970s, the only member of his family to immigrate to the United States from their hometown in the Gujarat state of India. His story and that of his family was recounted in interviews with Shashi, other family members and tens of thousands of pages of court documents.

The firstborn of five sons and three daughters, Shashi was their father’s favorite, a model student who, according to family members, always got what he wanted.

Shashi worked night shifts at the Alexandria Hotel downtown, making $1.60 an hour, enough to buy him a pizza and Coke every day and cover his split of the $60 rent for an apartment he shared with a roommate. He was working to pay back his father and others for the tuition money he had been lent to attend school in Los Angeles.

But a friend in India had sent him a small treasure: the moonstone. Send me back $250 and keep the profit, the friend said. Shashi went to the California Jewelry Mart and sold the gem for $550.

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