Prosecutors are contesting former Baton Rouge automobile dealer Hamid Ghassemi's claim that he lacks financial resources to hire investigators and experts to help him defend against charges that he paid to have his ex-wife murdered in 2015.

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against Ghassemi, 66, who is charged with first-degree murder in the murder-for-hire death of Taherah Ghassemi, 54.

The attorneys that Hamid Ghassemi hired filed a motion asking state District Judge Lou Daniel to declare him indigent and thus eligible for state funds to hire investigators and expert witnesses.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings responded to the defense request by saying the state contests the claim that Ghassemi is indigent, and she's asking Daniel to subject Ghassemi to a "rigorous screening process" to test his alleged indigency.

Cummings wants the judge to find that Ghassemi is not indigent.

In support of her argument, the prosecutor attached to her filing a February 2015 judgment of partition between Hamid and Taherah Ghassemi filed in East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court and signed by Judge Charlene Charlet Day.

The couple divorced in February 2015, and Taherah Ghassemi received $1.1 million in cash and two homes from Hamid Ghassemi as part of the division of community property.

Cummings contends the judgment of partition is "evidence of the defendant's ownership of real property and other assets" as of February 2015.

Taherah Ghassemi was reported missing in April 2015, and her body was found May 16, 2015, in a shallow grave in a rural part of St. Helena Parish. She had been shot in the head.

The judgment of partition, which Day signed on Feb. 10, 2015, indicates Hamid Ghassemi was assigned 100 percent ownership of property in Bam, Iran, and Baton Rouge and Lafayette, including Import One auto dealerships in both south Louisiana cities.

Tommy Damico, one of Ghassemi's attorneys, said Wednesday that Ghassemi no longer owns Import One or Import One Elite. His other assets have been frozen as a result of lawsuits filed against him, Damico added.

"Even if the assets (listed in February 2015) are still there, he has no way to get to them. They are frozen," Damico said. "He has no ability to get to those assets, and he won't for years."

Ghassemi is being held without bail, as are his three co-defendants also charged with first-degree murder: Daniel Humberto Richter, 36, of Walker, and Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 23, and Skyler Williams, 20, both of Denham Springs. Richter once worked at one of Ghassemi's dealerships, according to authorities.

Ashpaugh told detectives he went with Richter and Williams to Taherah Ghassemi's North Laurel Creek home and abducted her, authorities have said. She was put in the trunk of her car and driven to a heavily wooded area near Pine Grove in St. Helena.

Ghassemi and Ashpaugh do not have trial dates. Richter and Williams are set to stand trial June 11 and Aug. 27, respectively.


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.