Infighting among East County Chaldean community

Businessman Mark Paul Arabo accused of unfairly wielding his influence

Ben Kalasho
  • Ben Kalasho

Members of San Diego County's large Chaldean community are clashing with one another in hopes of gaining power, and naming rights, to a Chaldean business community.

On November 27, a group of Iraqi Christians known as the San Diego East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce filed suit in federal court against fellow Chaldean and president of the politically active Neighborhood Market Association Mark Paul Arabo for trademark infringement and for running interference on contracts.

According to the complaint, members of the newly formed San Diego East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce accuse Arabo of trying to steal their thunder, claiming that he used "his influence individually, and as President and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association to stop or deter individuals from participating in this organization."

Frustrated by his inability to stop the group from forming, Arabo then allegedly began to purchase fictitious business names from the county clerk, including the "Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, East County American-Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, East County Chaldean Chamber of Commerce" as well as eight other versions.

Arabo, with the help of fellow Chaldean businessman John Oram, allegedly went so far as to schedule a reception at the same venue as the San Diego East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to confuse and steer potential members from the rival business group. In a win for Arabo, the venue, Cottonwood Golf Course, eventually canceled the other group's reception.

Continues the lawsuit, "Plaintiff will likely suffer great and irreparable harm by reason of the acts, activities, and threatened acts of defendants as set forth above, unless an injunction is issued to prevent defendants from taking further action that will result in harm and injury to plaintiff."

A deposition was provided by Chaldean businessman Ben Kalasho. Kalasho was recently in the news after announcing his intention to run for mayor of El Cajon after longtime mayor Mark Lewis resigned after accusing the Iraqi Christians of taking handouts, despite riding around in “Mercedes-Benzes."

Update 12/4, 1:00 p.m.:

Arabo and his codefendant Johnny Oram say Kalasho is the one who is "sue-happy."

"This lawsuit is frivolous and we look forward to vindicating our position in court," is the statement from Arabo. "The Neighborhood Market Association is a non-profit organization that represents over 2,000 independent retail stores in California, Arizona and Nevada, and several of them include Chaldean business owners.

"The Neighborhood Market Association supports the Chaldean community and does not support using litigation as a tool for free public relations. It's unfortunate that Mr. Kalasho's chamber is trying to interfere with the good things Mr. Johnny Oram is trying to do for the Chaldean Community."

(revised 12/4, 3:30 p.m.)

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How interesting. The "riding around in Mercedes-Benzes" claim isn't actually disrespectful or incorrect. The Chaldean NMA store owners that I know of love the nicer, finer material goods, as we all do in one way or the other. If you look at any of the FB pages of the Chaldean NMA families, you'll see a glam throw-back look in style. The photos of many parties and celebrations of even the younger hipper generations show a fondness for big, gelled and hair-sprayed dos, satin and silk and gold and silver and jewels, lots of makeup for the women, the works. It's a bit dated in style, but very expensive looking. The families seem to make pretty good money on the much-appreciated stores they own and operate in neighborhoods that are older, lower income than the El Cajon areas in which they prefer to live, maintain their swimming pools, and do business. I just wish that, in the Democratic-voting Central SD areas where some of their markets exist, they wouldn't put up Ron Roberts and other Repub election signs. And it would be nice if they would put some of their money into improving the look and smell of the grocery stores that I know their wives and daughters wouldn't set foot in.

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