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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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around the valleys

– San Fernando Valley Chatsworth A Chatsworth man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme that cost 82 victims about $7 million. Luis Alonso Serna, 61, operated a foreign currency investment company called Architects of the Future Investments. Serna, a pastor at Zion Living Word Christian Center in San Fernando, solicited loans from individuals by telling them that the money would be invested in foreign currency and that their investments would generate annual returns as high as 20 percent, according to court documents. Serna admitted in his plea agreement that he invested only a small portion of the loan proceeds. Woodland Hills Supporters of the Pierce College Farm Center have demanded an investigation into the school’s eviction of the Pierce College Farm Center. The Farm Center at Victory and DeSoto avenues operates a farmers market and hosts popular holiday festivities, including an annual Harvest Festival featuring a corn maze. Robert McBroom, who runs the center, has leased the property for a decade. He was ordered to vacate the site in July by college administrators after his lease expired and the two sides could not reach an agreement on a new lease. He has been given until April 2015 to clear the property. Supporters are concerned the property will be turned over to a developer but the college’s trustees deny that. A 3.2-acre parcel entitled for 232 apartments or condominiums has been purchased by California Home Builders from REW De Soto Partners. The parcel at the northeast corner of Variel Avenue and Erwin Street is part of the 10-acre Panavision site in Warner Center. Dinerstein Cos. purchased the site in 2012, but REW retained an option to sell off the smaller portion once the parcel was divided. Financial details on the transaction were not disclosed. California Home Builders, a division of Evenhaim Industries Corp. in Canoga Park, was founded in 1994 and has built more than 1,500 homes and 2 million square feet of residential projects in Los Angeles County. The company plans to begin construction mid-next year. Studio City Studio City entertainment and media-software developer FilmTrack has acquired music-rights management firm Dashbox Inc. FilmTrack develops cloud-based software that manages digital-file delivery, royalty payments, contracts and other administrative functions. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. FilmTrack also announced it received $10 million in a second round of financing from Insight Venture Partners, in New York, and FilmTrack Chief Executive Jason Kassin and President Stephen Kassin, who founded the company together. North Hollywood A North Hollywood startup that helps accountants close the books has received $1.3 million in financing. FloQast, founded in June 2013, said the funding was led by Toba Capital, a San Francisco venture capital firm. Amplify LA, Siemer Ventures, Danmar Capital and various L.A. angel investors participated. FloQast offers a software application that allows finance professionals to collaborate, organize documents and automate some tasks, among other features. The company also announced it is launching two new products, its Intacct and NetSuite integrations, which centralize supporting documents with the trial balance. FloQast previously received $50,000 in seed financing from Los Angeles startup accelerator Amplify. The company said it has 10 customers. Glendale The Glendale City Council voted 4-1 to give design approval for a $105 million mixed-use development in the city’s downtown. The 489-unit project was proposed by Century West Partners of Los Angeles, founded by Steven Fifield, principal of Fifield Cos. of Chicago, and Michael Sorochinsky, principal of Cypress Equity Investments, an L.A. real estate investment firm. The complex of four buildings is planned for an entire city block at Central and Lexington avenues owned by Citigroup Inc. All existing structures on the 3.2-acre property, which includes an office building that houses 300 Citigroup employees, would be demolished. The project meets Downtown Specific Plan guidelines, so the design approval will allow the developer to seek building permits, which could take several years. Burbank Warner Bros. Entertainment began making staffing cuts that are expected to hit about 10 percent of the company’s employees across all divisions. The Burbank studio has global employment of about 8,000 people. The layoffs are said to be triggered by pressure to cut costs from Jeff Bewkes, chief executive of parent Time Warner Inc. He has promised investors that the New York company can create more value by remaining independent and efficient after rebuffing a deal by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to acquire the company. Glassell Park Point 360 will delist its shares from the Nasdaq Capital Market and will move trading to over-the-counter but still provide full financial reports. The Glassell Park post-production house said its board decided to delist because the thin trading of its shares doesn’t justify the costs to remain on the exchange. Also, the company is no longer in compliance with Nasdaq’s minimum price threshold of $1 a share. The switch is scheduled to occur Dec. 1, with trading over the counter to begin the next day. The stock will continue to use the ticker symbol PTSX. – Conejo Valley Thousand Oaks John Shields, who shepherded grocer Trader Joe’s through a major national expansion, died Oct. 31 after a long illness. He was 82. The Thousand Oaks resident took over what was just a 27-store California chain from founder Joe Coulumbe in 1988 and ran it for 13 years. Shields was born in Illinois and studied European history and earned an MBA from Stanford. He spent much of his career in retail, first with Macy’s Inc. and then at Mervyn’s before retiring in 1987. Under his leadership, Trader Joes’ opened its first store out of California in Arizona in 1993 and the first East Coast stores in the Boston suburbs of Cambridge and Brookline in 1996. By the time he left in 2001, there were 174 outlets nationwide. – Santa Clarita Valley Canyon Country A former finance manager at a prominent reality TV production studio was sentenced to two years in federal prison for embezzling $2.5 million from his former employer. Nolan Mitchell Ransdell, 41, of Canyon Country, had pleaded guilty to stealing money from Studio Lambert USA, a Culver City production house now known as All3Media America. The studio’s credits include “Undercover Boss.” Prosecutors said Ransdell made cash withdrawals from the company’s bank accounts and made out checks to himself, forging another executive’s signature. Ransdell was ordered to pay $2.46 million in restitution. – Antelope Valley Lancaster A pair of Canadian businessmen is set to become the new owners of the Lancaster JetHawks minor league baseball team. Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney are acquiring the team from the Carfagna family, of Cleveland. Terms of the transaction, which must be approved by Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball and the California League, were not disclosed. Kerr and Mooney own the Vancouver Canadians, a Single A team of the Northwest League. They have named Andy Dunn, the president of the Canadians, to the same position for the JetHawks, a Single A team in the California League founded in 1996. It is affiliated with the Houston Astros. The team won the California League Championship this season. – Around the Valleys To be considered for publication, submissions should be emailed to egolan@sfvbj.com. Please put ATV in the subject line. For more information, call (818) 316-3123.

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