ANTELOPE VALLEY – The man who published The Greater Antelope Valley Resource Guide was sentenced Thursday to 120 days in county jail for fraudulently altering advertising contracts, according to the Sheriff’s Departments Commercial Crimes Bureau.
Michael Sepehri, 51, was also ordered to pay more than $370k in restitution to 30 Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita victims. The following is the press report from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department:
In July 2009, representatives from several businesses reported to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies that they had been victimized by Michael Sepehri, the owner of Sepco Publishing, a company based in Santa Clarita. These allegations ultimately led to the felony conviction of Sepehri on July 14 for forging advertising contracts.
The business owners alleged to detectives that they had negotiated a one-year advertising contract with Sepehri to advertise in publications that had been in existence since 1996, including:
- The Greater Antelope Valley Resource Guide
- The Greater Santa Clarita Valley Resource Guide
A dispute arose between Sepehri and the business owners regarding the terms of the contracts. Sepehri contended they had signed multi-year contracts, while the victims adamantly maintained they had only signed one-year contracts to advertise.
When the victims refused to pay for the extended terms in the contract, Sepehri threatened civil litigation, and in some cases carried through with this threat. He sued several of the victims, falsely claiming they had signed longer term contracts, and then forcing them into expensive court hearings, where he produced fraudulently altered contracts.
During a search of Sepehri’s Santa Clarita home by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Commercial Crimes Bureau investigators in February 2010, hundreds of customer contracts were seized. A forensic analysis of these contracts by the Sheriff’s Department Scientific Services Bureau (Crime lab) concluded that many of the victims’ contracts had been altered.
A total of 42 victims from throughout the area were identified in this case.
On August 23, 2011, a criminal complaint was filed through the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office against 51-year old Michael Sepehri alleging 52 felony counts. The counts included forgery, grand theft, and attempted grand theft.
Sepehri eventually agreed to a deal in which he was permitted to plead guilty to only two Forgery counts, admit to special allegations regarding excessive victim losses, and agree to pay full restitution to the victims.
On June 14, 2012, Sepehri was sentenced to 120 days in the Los Angeles County jail, 3 years felony probation and was ordered to pay $370,753.97 to 30 victims in the case. The restitution included attorney fees and advertising costs that resulted from the fraud.
There is no evidence to indicate that any of the employees of the business were aware of the fraudulent activity, and investigators believe they were not involved.