By Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze
August 6, 2018 (El Cajon) – The legal spiderweb entangling El Cajon Councilman Bessmon "Ben" Kalasho and his wife, Jessica, has become even stickier. Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor has issued an order granting a motion by plaintiff Lina Charry, deeming admitted the contents of requests for admissions to which the Kalashos repeatedly failed to respond. Those admissions include allegedly illegal financial dealings,fraudulent and defamatory actions.
Charry is a plaintiff in the civil case filed by beauty pageant contestants Zhala Tawfiq and Paris Kargar, as well as the Tres Taqueria restaurant, against the Kalashos, a Chamber of Commerce and beauty pageant that they run, and others.
The admissions, which the Kalashos cannot deny following the judge's ruling, include:
- The Kalashos comingled assets of the Middle Eastern Chamber of Commerce which they own (formerly known as the San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce), with the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant USA (which was a nonprofit at the time) which they own, with personal assets and with assets of other business entities and individuals.
- The Chamber never held annual meetings of directors or shareholders and has no minutes of any corporate meeting.
- The Kalashos and their entities operated social media accounts under false identities which were used to maliciously smear attorney Charry as well as beauty pageant contestants and a taco shop owner.
- The Kalashos took revenge on Charry, with whom they had a prior legal dispute, using social media to create a poll which they rigged to vote Charry “worst attorney in San Diego.”
- The Kalashos used fake internet profiles to make false claims that Charry performed sexual acts in public, failed exams and was promiscuous.
- That he engaged in fraudulent business practices by posting false information on social media for the purpose of harming Charry’s business and personal reputation, and to cause her severe emotional distress.
Charry is represented by San Diego attorney Jennifer J. Hasso.
The latest judicial finding in the case comes on the heels of Judge Taylor earlier finding facts true and admissible that Ben Kalasho sexually harassed pageant contestants and offered to trade sex for the crown, and that the Kalashos used fake accounts to post falsified nude photos of a pageant contestant with whom they had a business dispute, and to defame the taco shop owner with a poll that they controlled, as ECM reported.
On a related matter, Kalasho is also accused by Jimmie Parker, attorney for the pageant contestants and taco shop owner, of falsifying real estate documents to hide assets prior to a court judgment in the case.
After our reporting revealed that Kalasho never obtained a federal employer ID number to secure nonprofit status of the beauty pageant, the state revoked its nonprofit status. Since then, Kalasho has refused to provide comment for any ECM story and asked not to be contacted by ECM, stating that he only does interviews with “reputable and legitimate media outlets.”
ECM editor Miriam Raftery and Contributing Editor Paul Kruze recently won the Society of Professional Journalists San Diego Chapter’s prestigious "Gloria Penner Award for Political Affairs Reporting" in July 2018 for their dogged reports on Kalasho's financial and legal controversies over the past year, despite harassment and even physical threats by Kalasho.
In addition to the allegations over Kalasho's conduct in the pending civil case, he has engaged in a pattern of threats and harassment against East County Magazine as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune and SDUT reporter Jeff McDonald.
ECM reporter Paul Kruze has filed a complaint with El Cajon Police Department stating that Kalasho threatened him with a trained attack dog while he was photographing his campaign vehicle parked at the Parkway Plaza Shopping Mall and later harassed and defamed him online which led to death threats against Kruze. The incident was reported by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker as an assault on First Amendment freedom of the press.
At the July 11th, 2018 meeting of the El Cajon City Council, 11 members of the public called for Kalasho to resign. Kalasho responded with social media posts encouraging media and the public to “keep making me famous.”