Beverly Hills developer gets 4 years in prison for bribing LA County official

A Beverly Hills developer was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison for bribing a Los Angeles County official in what prosecutors described as one of the largest corruption cases in Los Angeles history.

Arman Gabaee, 61, admitted to giving a county official dozens of cash payments during furtive meetings in cars, restaurants and men’s rooms while collecting lucrative real estate leases in return.

The developer also offered to buy the official, Thomas J. Shepos, a $1 million home in exchange for the county spending $45 million to lease office space on a Gabaee property in Hawthorne.

U.S. District Judge George H. Wu rejected the government’s request for nine years in prison, but accepted its recommendation for a $1.1 million fine that Gabaee must pay at the end of of March Wu called the case an example of “systemic” public corruption.

“There’s a lot of that,” the judge said.

The developer, who also goes by Gabay, told Wu that his payments to Shepos were “an isolated situation that I’m very ashamed of, and I’m very ashamed of it.”

“I understand that I have done something wrong, and I ask you for mercy,” he said.

Gabaee was co-founder and co-managing partner of Charles Co., a development company in Hollywood. He pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in May.

“This is one of the largest corruption cases in the history of this district,” said Deputy US Agent. Lindsey Greer Dotson told Wu while arguing Thursday for a harsher sentence.

Citing FBI wiretaps indicating potentially corrupt dealings by Gabaee with other public officials, he said: “This was just a tiny sample of how this defendant does business.”

“I don’t know if I can go that far,” Wu replied.

From 2010 to 2017, Gabaee paid Shepos $1,000 a month in exchange for county leases, attractive lease terms, non-public information and other perks.

As a senior official in the county’s real estate division, Shepos negotiated leases between property owners and the county. The leases were subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors.

In December 2016, Shepos began cooperating with the FBI, which soon recorded receiving more bribes from Gabaee. Shepos pleaded guilty in 2018 to making false statements to the FBI about bribes and signing a false 2014 tax return.

Gabaee went on record as offering Shepos a million-dollar home in Northern California’s wine country in exchange for a 10-year lease that would make L.A. County the tenant of his Hawthorne property Mal.

Gabaee moved quickly to sell the property, saying the $45 million long-term lease from a reliable tenant caused the property’s market value to soar overnight from $17 million to $500 million dollars, according to the government.

“His seven years of monthly cash bribes, culminating in a massive multi-million dollar bribe, was not [born] of financial or emotional desperation, but immense, deliberate and almost unfathomable greed,” Greer Dotson and Assistant US Atty. Thomas F. Rybarczyk wrote in a note to the court. “He had it all, and yet it was never enough.”

Several dozen of Gabaee’s family and friends attended the sentencing. Some of them wept loudly after Gabaee was jailed for four years. According to Robert Shapiro, his attorney, about 150 supporters wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency for Gabaee, including some expressing gratitude for the developer’s gifts to charity.

Shapiro asked for 18 months of home confinement and no prison time for Gabaee. He urged Wu to give credit to Gabaee for his rehabilitation of properties in impoverished sections of South Los Angeles

“Arman deeply regrets his foolish and self-defeating decision to make the illicit payments to Tom Shepos,” Shapiro and other Gabaee lawyers told Wu in a memo.

“It is his sincere hope that the Court will weigh this error against his remarkable track record of investing in the city center and providing first-class rental properties to the wider community.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *