Attorney General seeks documentation, fees for Miss Middle East pageant group

The California Attorney General’s Office has sent a letter to El Cajon City Councilman Bessmon “Ben” Kalasho asking for documentation and a filing fee for a nonprofit group he recently formed.

Kalasho incorporated the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant USA in May to “provide scholarship money for Middle Eastern women for competing in beauty pageants.”

He has run the pageant since 2014, and is involved in a lawsuit and cross-complaint with two former contestants who claim the event is fraudulent — charges he denies.

Until May, Kalasho told U-T Watchdog, the pageant was produced by the San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, a trade group that represented small businesses in the Cajon Valley before it was suspended by the California Franchise Tax Board last year.

State records show the chamber was incorporated as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in 2013, with the stated public-benefit purpose of educating Chaldean American businesses.

Kalasho said he never followed through on the original nonprofit filing, and the chamber actually was a for-profit entity that he ran from his home. He said he paid taxes for the group using a Schedule C for sole proprietorships, as an attachment to his personal income taxes.

“When we first set up the chamber, we planned on being a nonprofit,” Kalasho said. “We never completed that paperwork. We never operated a true nonprofit or completed that filing.

“The taxes were paid on my personal Schedule C as the Chaldean Chamber was a sole propriety operated out of my house.”

A state tax board spokesman said the chamber was suspended June 1, 2016, for failing to pay fees. It remained registered as a nonprofit at the time of suspension.

In addition to forming the pageant as a stand-alone organization this year, Kalasho says he has now also created a new business group, the Middle Eastern Chamber of Commerce, which promotes itself as “the largest ethnic chamber in the world.”

A black-tie affair held June 29 at the La Jolla Marriott touted the chamber event as a re-branding of the former group. At the same gala event, Parand Biranvand was crowned Miss Middle East USA 2017.

Paperwork for the newly organized chamber described by Kalasho is not yet available for public review at the California Secretary of State’s Office.

The Secretary of State does have documentation of the newly independent pageant organization. The…

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