LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles County Internal Services Department official and an electrical contractor from whom he allegedly accepted nearly $300,000 in bribes both agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to federal bribery and tax charges.
In a plea agreement, the county official — Mohammad R. Tirmazi, 50, of Alta Loma — agreed to plead guilty to accepting bribes and signing a false 2016 tax return in which he failed to report $192,800 in income, including about $137,400 in bribe payments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In a second plea agreement, the contractor — Enrique Contreras, 38, of Palmdale — agreed to plead guilty to paying bribes and signing a false 2015 tax return in which he failed to report $281,422 in income, prosecutors said.
According to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court, from 2014 to 2016, Tirmazi allegedly accepted a total of nearly $300,000 in bribe payments from Contreras, the owner of Tel-Pro Voice & Data Inc. — a low-voltage electrical wiring company in Lancaster that performed work for the county.
In exchange for the bribes, Tirmazi allegedly approved change orders requested by Contreras for, among other things, work that did not occur and materials that were not used on county projects. Tirmazi also admits in his plea agreement that he did not report, or force Contreras to correct, violations of the county’s Building and Safety Code or the National Electrical Code that Tirmazi uncovered during inspections of Tel-Pro’s work, prosecutors said.
Some of those violations related to asbestos removal and Tel-Pro’s alleged failure to properly install cables. In his plea agreement, Tirmazi admits that he generally considered Tel-Pro’s work to be “shoddy,” but he overlooked its poor work because of the bribes he received from Contreras, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Corrupt public officials and powerful people who pay bribes pose a threat to our institutions and, as we see in this case, also can threaten public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna of the Central District of California. “Bringing these criminals to justice will help restore trust in our civic institutions.”
In his plea agreement, Tirmazi admits that he failed to report on his tax returns for years 2014 to 2016 a total of $355,107 of income he received from bribe payments and a side business selling IT equipment. Contreras, in his plea agreement, admits that he failed to report a total of $636,454 of income he received from 2013 to 2017 as a result of his improper deduction of bribe payments and other personal expenses.
As part of their plea agreements, both Tirmazi and Contreras have agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation.
In his agreement, Contreras also admits to bribing Thomas J. Shepos, 69, of Palmdale, a public official formerly employed by the county in the Real Estate Division. Shepos pleaded guilty last year to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in November.
From roughly 2013 to 2016, Contreras made cash payments to Shepos, totaling about $200,000 to $300,000, in exchange for Shepos providing non- public county information to Contreras and helping Contreras secure county contracts, prosecutors said.
As part of his plea agreement, Shepos also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation.
One of the individuals from whom Shepos admitting receiving bribes was real estate developer Arman Gabaee, 58, of Beverly Hills. Gabaee was arrested and subsequently indicted on federal bribery charges last year. His trial is scheduled for Sept. 10 before U.S. District Judge George H. Wu in downtown Los Angeles.
Tirmazi and Contreras are expected to appear for arraignments in Los Angeles federal court in the coming weeks.
Once they enter their guilty pleas, each defendant will face up to 13 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.