LOS ANGELES – A commercial real estate developer was sentenced Thursday, Dec. 15, to four years in federal prison for paying off a Los Angeles County employee in exchange for help obtaining a government lease worth $45 million.
Arman Gabaee, 61, of Beverly Hills, was also sentenced to two years under supervised release after his release from prison and ordered to pay a fine of $1.1 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Gabaee pleaded guilty in May to a federal bribery count.
Gabaee, a co-founder and co-managing partner of the Charles Company, a real estate development firm, 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 Los Angeles County enter into a 10-year, $45 million lease to rent space in the Hawthorne Mall — which Gabaee 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 Los Angeles 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.
“This defendant gamed the system during a seven-year bribery spree designed to expand his real estate empire,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “The scheme culminated in a massive million-dollar bribe that was motivated by Mr. Gabaee’s immense greed. By facilitating this pay-to-play system, Mr. Gabaee undermined confidence in the integrity and fairness of our public institutions.”
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.
Shepos pleaded guilty in November 2018 to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 19, 2023. 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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