The NYT has a long article on a Miami Beach company that has gotten a contract worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government to supply Afghan government forces with ammunition, even though it is supposedly run by a 22-year-old. (Here's CEO Efraim Diveroli's MySpace profile.) Much of the ammo has apparently turned out to be junk scrounged from ex-Soviet, Albanian, or Chinese supplies.
What's not explained in the article is: "Who are these people?"
UPDATE: With lots of help from my alert readers, I've found out more about the clan involved. It's a great story, involving Michael Jackson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, "America's Rabbi," and America's largest palimony suit.
The NYT article does mention that Diveroli got his start working briefly for his uncle Bar-Kochba Botach's weapons shop, Botach Tactical.
Here's a fun discussion thread entitled "BotachTactical.com is by far the worst company I have ever dealt with...," where ex-customers of Botach discuss their experiences trying to get Botach to live up to its promises. You've got to give this family of arms dealers credit for courage -- I can see ripping off photographers wanting to buy Nikon cameras cheap, but routinely ripping off the kind of people who want to buy 30-round magazines for their M-16s (the featured item on Botach's website today), well, that takes some brass.
Botach Tactical operates out of an unmarked building in -- where else? -- South Central Los Angeles. From The Wave, LA's black newspaper:
The black community has a gun dealership in it.
Botach Tactical is a state-licensed and city-contracted bulk gun supply business in operation on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and 43rd Place, it was learned this week.
The gun dealership, owned by Bartochba Botach, was discovered Friday by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and a group of Crenshaw area residents, who, responding to rumors, went to the unmarked storefront at 3423 W. 43rd Place and demanded entry.
Once inside, the group, which included the congresswoman’s daughter, Karen Titus, and activists Steve Cokely, Sandra Moore and Maurice Griffin, confronted Botach, who admitted to being a gun merchant.
“He said he is an international arms dealer with a government contract and that everything he does at his Crenshaw store is legal,” Moore said. “He told us he has a right to be in there, but we didn’t.
“He said, yeah, he sells guns and ammunition in bulk, but only to law enforcement and the military,” Moore added. “He said he is an Israeli and that he operates the gun business with his family. I asked him why he had to sell them in our community. I was angry, so I told him to go sell them in his own community.”
Moore described the site as the neighborhood’s former pawnshop, stripped of all identifying signage and fortified with thick, double-plated glass. “And dogs,” she said.
“He’s got several vicious dogs on the premises. The guy said he also owns Maverick’s Flat across the street from his gun store and he uses it as a warehouse, so we went over there, too, and I ran into a cop coming out with a box of bullets.”
Waters, Moore and company went directly to the office of their city representative, Councilman Bernard Parks, to report and protest the presence of the gun dealership. Parks spent the next two days researching the business in question and Tuesday reported the following:
Botach Tactical is a gun supply store that has allegedly been operated by Botach for 12 years. Parks said Botach has had other businesses in the community for at least 20 years.
The councilman said Botach has a current valid state license to sell arms and is contracted by the Los Angeles Police Commission to buy and sell guns, ammunition and arms-related materials in bulk through the Internet to police agencies around the country.
Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, who was the area’s city councilman for 12 years before Parks’ election, Tuesday disputed the 12-year operation of the gun dealership at the 43rd Place site.
“It has always been a pawnshop,” Ridley-Thomas said. “When did it turn into a gun store? How did it turn into a gun store? You can’t change the use of a building without proper notification, permits and public hearings.
“Where are the public notification documents?” Ridley-Thomas asked. “This is something the residents would have had to be apprised of in advance and be allowed to respond to before such a business began operating.
“A pawnshop showed up at that location shortly after the  civil unrest and people didn’t like it there. It had always been a controversial site as a pawnshop. How did it shift from a pawnshop to a gun shop, which is something even more controversial?” [More]
In 2006, Luke Ford noticed this LA Daily News story about the SoCal arms dealer who appears to be the great-uncle of Efraim Diveroli and perhaps the father of Bar-Kochba Botach:
Makeup artist to the stars Judith Boteach thought she had found true love when it took four people to carry all of the flowers and jewelry lavished on her the day multimillionaire Yoav Botach proposed marriage.
Boteach said she learned a month after their Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony that her groom hadn't obtained a California marriage license, but she believed in their future together.
"I loved him," said Boteach. "I trusted him and he kept telling me (the wedding license) wasn't necessary."
But their relationship ended unhappily, with Boteach kicked out of the couple's Beverlywood home in her nightgown. And she is now embroiled in a court battle for half of Botach's fortune - millions of dollars she claims he promised her should the couple ever split.
"This is the largest palimony case in American history," said Robert W. Hirsh, Boteach's attorney, who explained that his client cannot fight for alimony since she and Botach were never legally married.
According to court records, Botach co-owns 144 commercial and other properties in Los Angeles, as well as Botach Tactical, a nationwide distributor of police and military equipment. But Boteach is seeking access to financial documents to determine the defendant's assets. "We would not be surprised if his net worth is $700 million," Hirsh said.
Judith Boteach apparently now runs a Moroccan restaurant, BBC Cafe, in Beverly Hills. An LA Times restaurant review describes her as "Judith Boteach, the charismatic Moroccan American chef and co-owner and her partners Jay and Karine Kaplan and Gabriel Azoulay." I would guess she from Morocco's Jewish community.
Apparently, Yoav Botach is the father of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of the bestseller Kosher Sex and host of the Shalom in the Home reality TV show on TLC Network. He calls himself "America's Rabbi" on his website. So, this celebrity rabbi, who was ordained as Lubavitcher Hasidic but has since broken with them, would appear to be the uncle of young arms dealer Efraim Diveroli.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson) started an "infamous" charity in 2000 called Time for Kids that put on a benefit at Carnegie Hall but somehow never got any money to any kids. The money seems to have wound up with Shmuley's L'Chaim Oxford nonprofit, which is supposed to promote Jewish life at Oxford U. But it got into all kinds of legal and tax problems with the British government because it didn't seem to be doing any of that.
The treasurer of the dubious Michael Jackson charity was Shmuley's sister, Ateret Diveroli, who appears to be Efraim's mom.
But, I must say, at this point there are so many Botaches and Boteaches and Yoavs and Bar-Kochbas floating around that I may have well have gotten some of this wrong.
The VP and #2 officer of Diveroli's AEY the firm that got the huge contract from the taxpayers, is 25-year-old licensed masseuse David M. Packouz. He appears to be the son of Rabbi Kalman Packouz (a.k.a., Kenneth M. Packouz) of Miami Beach, author of How to Prevent an Intermarriage. Rabbi Kalman is Executive Director of Aish HaTorah Jerusalem Fund.
There's been a lot of speculation over how young Diveroli got this lucrative contract. One common suggestion is that perhaps he's a big Republican campaign donor.
Yet, the only person mentioned in this posting who has contributed to a Presidential candidate over the last decade, according to OpenSecrets.org, is pawnshop owner turned merchant of death Yoav Botach, who gave $1,000 to John Edwards last year.
Overall, it just sounds like a whole family full of self-starters.