A Garden Grove electrical contractor was arrested Friday on suspicion of attempting to bribe a city inspector to overlook substandard wiring that led to a neon sign outside an unfinished jewelry store, police said.
Berhman Bert Sheidaye, 44, of Fullerton was taken into custody by Huntington Beach police officers after allegedly giving $50 to city inspector James Lawrence during an electrical inspection on Thursday, Police Sgt. Louis Ochoa said.
The arrest was made after Lawrence, who carried a hidden microphone, met with Sheidaye on Friday and recorded a conversation, during which Sheidaye allegedly insisted that Lawrence keep the money, Ochoa said.
"He told Mr. Lawrence, 'It's yours. It's just between us,' " Ochoa said in recounting the tape-recorded conversation between the two men.
Sheidaye, after being released from the Huntington Beach Jail on his own recognizance, said that the incident amounted to a misunderstanding at best. He also charged that the inspector was out to discredit him because of a long series of run-ins that the two have had over the years.
"This man, he does not know nothing," Sheidaye said. "All the contractors hate him. . . . He tried to destroy me."
According to Ochoa, Sheidaye, owner of the Garden Grove-based Sunlight Signs, was told by Lawrence that the electrical work he had performed on a neon sign at Noal's Jewelry on Edinger Avenue would have to be changed.
"It was just not up to code," Ochoa said. "The way it was, it could have started a fire."
After Lawrence said the work would have to be changed, Sheidaye, according to Ochoa, allegedly tried to hand him the $50, but the inspector refused to take it.
However, Sheidaye continued to press the money into Lawrence's hand, Ochoa said. Finally, Ochoa alleged, Sheidaye slipped the money into the inspector's back pocket.
"Lawrence was just fed up," Ochoa said. "He came directly to us."
Ochoa said that police officials urged Lawrence to meet with Sheidaye on Friday morning and to carry a hidden microphone. "We told him to just try and give the money back," Ochoa said.
During the second meeting, Lawrence told Sheidaye that he could not keep the money and suggested that the contractor take it back, Ochoa said. "The guy (Sheidaye) essentially said, 'No. You keep it. No one else will know.' " Ochoa related.
At that point, Ochoa said, four officers who had been listening to the conversation moved in and arrested Sheidaye.
Sheidaye said that he gave the money to Lawrence for reinspection fees. He said that $20 was owed Lawrence for the Thursday inspection, and $30 was to cover the Friday morning inspection.
When asked by Lawrence what the $30 was for, Sheidaye said that he jokingly answered, "You can have it for a drink or for the next" reinspection.