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October 23, 2014

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Crime and punishment:

Back-to-back prison sentences don’t soothe mother’s worries about family’s continued safety

Ex-boyfriend convicted of trying to arrange hit on woman and her daughter

The mother of three daughters watched with trepidation Wednesday as the Iranian national was sentenced to prison.

Clark County District Judge Kathleen E. DeLaney ordered Rafik Vartanpour to serve six to 15 years in prison, to be served after completing the 20-year maximum sentence Vartanpour had received in another case this year.

The mother’s reason for worry? Vartanpour, the woman’s ex-boyfriend, was sentenced Wednesday for solicitation to commit murder. His targets were the mother and at least one of her daughters.

In February, the mother was preparing her daughter to take the stand against Vartanpour, who was in custody awaiting trial on charges he had sexually assaulted the daughter.

During that time, the mother squeezed in a lunch meeting with a Metro Police detective. They met in secret, where the detective showed the woman a binder three inches thick.

The binder contained a plethora of information: the stores the mother liked, the type of car she drove, a map of her daughter’s school — even which side of the bed the mother slept on.

While in jail, Vartanpour had tried to hire a hit man to kill the woman and her eldest daughter, likely hoping it would make the sexual assault case disappear, the detective told the mother.

Even with Vartanpour’s maximum sentences running consecutively, it’s hard for the mother to feel her family is safe. After all, Vartanpour already tried to hurt them from behind bars.

Police found out about the plot because an inmate snitched on Vartanpour. Going off the tip, police arranged for a detective to pose as a hired gun.

The mother has three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 4. Vartanpour is the father of the youngest.

Vartanpour, prosecutors said during Wednesday’s sentencing, wanted to hire the detective posing as a hit man to kill the mother and the 11-year-old. The detective was told to do “whatever he liked” with the middle daughter. The only person Vartanpour asked be spared was his daughter.

Vartanpour used code words in trying to arrange the hit, prosecutors say. He said he needed a pool and a Jacuzzi cleaned. Pool meant the mother and Jacuzzi referred to the eldest daughter.

After the hearing, Vartanpour appeared outraged.

“This was all games,” he said waving his hand before locking eyes with the mother and saying, “I swear on my own daughter.”

While Vartanpour pleaded guilty, he did so through an Alford plea, which DeLaney summed up in court as an “I’m guilty but I didn’t do it“ plea.

An Alford plea is a way for defendants to accept a deal by acknowledging they are pleading out under the threat of harsh punishments that could come out were the case to go to trial.

During his statement, Vartanpour denied the charges. He said he was set up and that the mother was trying to get revenge because Vartanpour didn’t want to marry her.

“How can I express remorse or regret for things I haven’t done? I have never been a liar and I cannot start to be now,” Vartanpour said. “I’m sorry about not making better choices about who I allow to be close to me.”

Vartanpour, born in Iran and residing in the United States on a green card, could be deported. If he is sent back to Iran, he will be executed, Vartanpour told the court.

For now, he will serve his time in the United States.

Thinking Vartanpour will only encounter more notorious inmates in prison, the mother frets about how to tell her children to be cautious without terrifying them. None of the daughters had been told they were in danger, though they had a sense that something was wrong, the mother said.

A week after meeting with the detective in February, the mother and her girls had plans to go to Disneyland. It was ironic, the mother said, being at the “Happiest Place on Earth” and scared someone might try to murder her family at any moment.

Before the trip, police told the mother they thought she would be safe but to watch her back, she said.

She started driving around, armed with a baseball bat and stun gun. With the help of the district attorney’s office, she was able to break her lease and find new housing Vartanpour didn’t know about.

The situation is even harder to explain to her youngest, who recently asked, “Why does everybody have a dad? I don’t have a dad.”

The 4-year-old will be singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and stop to ask where her dad is, the mother said.

“What do you say?” the mother laughed while wiping away tears outside the courtroom Wednesday morning, “He tried to kill us?”

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