RUSSELL TWP. - Ali Pascal Mahvi walks around his expansive Russell Township home, pointing out to skeptics every little repair needing a handyman's touch.
There's the loose stone steps leading to his front door and grand foyer. The overgrown grass and weeds await the landscaper who regularly visits the six-acre property.
He pauses to adjust an oil painting of his late father, a former Iranian prince.
Mahvi goes outside to the stone patio where he points out the in-ground swimming pool – not used in two years – and says it still needs $20,000 in repairs.
And the four-car garage. There’s two sporty cars inside – the BMW and a Lexus. Both date back a decade and are worth maybe $5,000 combined.
The $4 million Swiss bank account?
Police detective fiction, he says.
Now, Mahvi argues, after seeing all this, you might understand why he and his wife and three adult children needed food stamps for two years.
“From the outside, it looks like I’m living like a king. But I assure you, I am not,” said Mahvi, 65. “I had to feed my family.”
Mahvi's home is worth more than $800,000. And he concedes he’s worth $120 million. But it’s all from his 70 percent share in property next to a St. Lucia resort that he and his father developed years ago. But he can’t sell. His credit is shot, his score floundering under 500. No bank will loan him money.
“Life has its ups and downs but, as long as you’re standing, by the grace of God, you will survive….somehow,” he says.
He says he will also survive the police investigation that alleges he concealed his wealth in order to collect monthly food stamps payments of more than $300 a month, as well as Medicaid that helped pay for his hospital stay following a heart attack in June.
“By a long shot, I’m not the typical food stamp recipient…not at all,” he said.
But, he said, he is not a criminal. Why, he said, would he risk so much for so little?
“It makes no sense,” he says, of the criminal investigation. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Mahvi’s story grabbed the public’s attention this week when the investigation by Geauga County Jobs and Family Services, sheriff’s deputies and the county prosecutors came to light.
His home was raided last week as law enforcement continued its investigation. They contend Mahvi failed to report his assets – and thousands of dollars of “loans” from friends – in order to obtain government assistance.
No charges have been filed. Prosecutors are, however, expected to pursue theft and fraud charges.
Mahvi said he’s broke. He has about $800 in the bank. He’s riddled with debt after failed business ventures and lawsuits involving his former investors, he said.
Equity in his $800,000 home, he said, is maxed out. He sold all of his wife's jewelry.
He first sought food stamps in 2014 as a last resort. The payments stopped earlier this year, he said, when his son got a job and pushed the family above the limit for benefits.
"All my adult life, I was an employer. I was paying people," he said. "And now, no one is taking care of me."
According to old news reports, Mahvi is the son of Abolfath Mirza Mahvi, a Prince Royal of Iran and founder of M. Group Resorts, a resort development company.
Ali Pascal Mahvi is credited with developing the Jalousie Plantation Resort and The Jalousie Enclave, the site of UNESCO's newest World Heritage. He boasts of his wealth on his LinkedIn.com page.
Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said Mahvi is a con man who has conned the system designed to help the poor.
“It’s outrageous to see a situation where somebody is living in a house almost worth a million dollars, a horse barn, driving luxury cars, have millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts and here they are accepting this type of assistance,” Flaiz said.
The family told county workers that they were surviving on the help of church donations and loans from friends. Records show the family received two personal loans – one in 2014 and another in February - totaling $25,400.
But according to the affidavit compiled by Geauga County investigators, the family has at least 14 bank accounts with a combined value of more than $4.2 million. Those funds were not disclosed when Mahvi applied for benefits, officials said.
Mahvi told Channel 3 News that the bank accounts are old and one statement - a Swiss account belonged to his father. He scoffed at the police contention that the Swiss account holds $4 million.
"Show me the account. I will kiss your feet," he said.
Detectives have combed through the bank accounts focusing on 23 months – March 2014 to February 2016 – when the Mahvis received food stamps.
They noted typical expenses for affluent families: a $4,600 mortgage payment, $567 for cell phones, $200 meals at local restaurants and $350 for cable TV.
And there were stops for tanning sessions and Starbucks. Mahvi did not deny the household expenses, but said his lifestyle is relative to others.
"It was our right to apply [for food stamps] and I applied," he said. "If people don't like the system, then they should go change it."