A commercial real estate developer pleaded guilty Monday, May 2, to paying off a Los Angeles County employee in exchange for help obtaining a government lease worth $45 million.
Arman Gabaee, 61, entered his plea via Zoom to a bribery count and agreed to pay a fine of at least $1.1 million and any restitution ordered, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. District Judge George Wu set sentencing for Aug. 22, at which time Gabaee will face up to 10 years in federal prison.
Gabaee, a co-founder and co-managing partner of the Charles Company, admitted paying cash bribes to Thomas Shepos, 72, of Palmdale, who was then employed in the county’s real estate division.
According to federal prosecutors, Shepos’ job involved negotiating leases for the county to rent office space from private parties and he had “significant autonomy to contractually bind the county.”
Gabaee was pushing to have L.A. County enter into a 10-year, $45 million lease to rent space in the Hawthorne Mall — which the developer owned through one of his companies and was renovating — for the Department of Public Social Services and other county departments, according to papers filed in L.A. federal court. Along with monthly payments of $1,000, Gabaee offered to buy Shepos a $1.1 million home in Santa Rosa wine country in exchange for signing off on the lucrative lease.
In 2016, Shepos began cooperating with the FBI, and officials recorded conversations with Gabaee, who also uses the last name of Gabay, according to the 2018 criminal complaint against the developer. Prior to pleading guilty, Gabaee was scheduled to go on trial in June.
Shepos pleaded guilty in November 2018 to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27. One of the individuals from whom Shepos admitting receiving bribes was Gabaee, court papers show.
As part of his job, Shepos was able to request and receive proposals from private real estate developers such as Gabaee, who wanted to lease their buildings to county departments.
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