VANCOUVER, Wash. — Over the past 32 years, Pooneh Gray and her team of lawyers and investigators built a complex case against the people they suspect in Effie Entezari’s murder, and say they’ve developed two motives.
The first: Money. The other isn't quite as common. Pooneh thinks her mother's death was planned by a group hoping to hide an intricate network of immigration and passport fraud.
The Estate of Effie Entezari filed a wrongful death complaint in October 2019 in Clark County, Wash. This document states in part: "new evidence shows that Effie was killed to keep her from exposing an Iranian international criminal conspiracy, and that Mike Entezari was framed for her murder."
It goes on to say that Effie and Mike were unique in the Iranian community because they were U.S. citizens. The wrongful death complaint alleged that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 made it difficult for Iranians to immigrate to the United States, which gave rise to an underground industry of passport fraud and identity theft worth millions of dollars for those who could pay to escape the new regime.
At the risk of tainting a potential criminal investigation, Pooneh won’t discuss in detail what she uncovered. However, while we developed the project that would become "The Yellow Car," she said she found evidence connecting Effie’s acquaintances to suspected passport fraud.
She said she noticed a pattern of people immigrating to the United States from Iran, all using similar names and dates of birth.
"I think my mom found out about different things that were happening, this being one of them. These are dangerous, very dangerous people. Extremely dangerous people," Pooneh said. "When you have two people with uncommon names coming to the United States within months of each other, and not only do they have the same name, but they have very similar dates of birth, you have to kind of pay attention to that. The combination of the things that we're seeing happening within this group would have been a problem for my mom."
Pooneh believes the group threatened Effie to keep her quiet, and ultimately, killed her in an effort to silence her. There was evidence that Effie had been threatened before her death. The Medical Examiner discovered bruising on Effie’s body during an autopsy that was determined to be unrelated to her murder.
"I think my mom was very naive, because none of us ever think that someone is going to murder us. I think my mom would have first and foremost confronted them about what she found out and asked that they stop," Pooneh said.
Pooneh said her attorneys have hired immigration consultants to review the evidence they’ve compiled, and they’ve handed it over to authorities to investigate.
The other motive Pooneh and her team believe they’ve discovered involves money and an elaborate business scheme. They believe Effie was establishing a business and that the group of her acquaintances defrauded her of thousands of dollars, eventually taking over Effie’s business after her murder.
Pooneh had learned years ago that Effie had been loaning money to the group of her acquaintances. After her death, however, Pooneh uncovered a private bank account belonging to Effie containing $23,000. Effie reportedly kept it hidden from Mike so he couldn’t acquire any of the money during their divorce.
"My mom had an account that she had been saving for a really long time," said Pooneh. "She was depositing money into this account every single month."
But shortly after the murder, Pooneh discovered an unknown person emptied it and closed it, leaving no trace.
"There were no records left of it and the account had been shut down. My mom had been saving that for almost a decade. She's not going to spend $23,000 in the three months preceding her homicide," said Pooneh.
Her team says they’ve also found evidence that shows Effie had engaged in a business agreement with her acquaintances.
Pooneh told us this happened: “as early as six months, seven months before her homicide. Nobody knew about this ... The evidence shows that she thought she was the full owner of the (new) business. Not that it was a partnership, and that there was every intent of her taking over this business, but she was killed. So that came to a stop."
Pooneh’s attorney, Renee Rothauge, explained that because the case is under review by officials, they aren’t able to elaborate on their discovery.
"This case is very challenging. The investigation is ongoing. There's law enforcement involved and we are finding new information, it seems like every day. We still are expecting more people will come forward with more information for us. But every time we learn a new piece of information that fits, it creates this picture. The big picture that I think we are confident saying is: there was a group of people that she was associated with that were involved in activities that were illegal. There was certainly motivation, financially, to kill her. But I think the picture is not complete. We are still learning more every day," Rothauge said.
Pooneh said that she and her attorneys have given the Clark County prosecuting attorney all relevant documentation and evidence that supports their theory of separate motives, and are hopeful officials will pursue the people they believe killed Effie.
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