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Federal prosecutors say tapped calls show ‘corrupt dealings’ by Beverly Hills developer

Federal courthouse
The U.S. courthouse on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

A Beverly Hills real estate developer accused of bribing a Los Angeles County employee was captured on a government wiretap having “corrupt dealings” with other public officials, federal prosecutors said in a new filing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not name the government officials or identify the agencies where they worked. However, they described conversations between developer Arman Gabay and unnamed individuals about permitting problems, tax issues and government financing for one of his projects, among other issues.

Gabay, who faces bribery and wire fraud charges, was asked by a public official during one phone call to make a campaign donation to an unnamed politician, according to the filing. Gabay agreed to give $10,000. Shortly after, the same official told Gabay that a new government employee had been assigned to one of his construction projects, prosecutors said.

“It appeared that [the official] had resolved one issue (of many) that defendant was facing regarding the construction of his personal residence,” they wrote. The filing did not say where the property was located.

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Prosecutors said the same public official had another government worker reprimanded for “making waves” on a permitting issue at the Gabay property. According to the filing, the public official bragged to Gabay that the worker was told that the next time the official’s office called, “you say how high can I jump.”

Prosecutors said they concluded after hearing Gabay’s conversations that he “was likely giving bribes and/or other benefits” to that official or a third party in exchange for “official acts.”

Thomas P. O’Brien, an attorney for Gabay, told The Times in an email: “We vigorously disagree with the government’s filing, and we will address this in the proper forum.”

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Gabay, who also goes by the name Gabaee, has pleaded not guilty to felony bribery and wire fraud charges.

Federal investigators arrested Gabay in 2018, accusing him of bribing a Los Angeles County employee in hopes of securing a lucrative government lease in Hawthorne. Prosecutors said Gabay, who has worked with the real estate firm Charles Co., gave the county official monthly bribes of $1,000 or more — and at one point sought to purchase a home for the official in Santa Rosa.

Thomas Shepos, the county official, later agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI and signing a false tax return.

In their new filing, federal prosecutors argued that evidence from wiretapped calls should be allowed at Gabay’s trial to counter any claim that he was a victim of entrapment and show that he was “predisposed” to commit such crimes.

Attorneys for Gabay filed their own motion about the wiretapped calls, which was submitted under seal.

Gabay’s lawyers said their motion should remain confidential because it mentions people who have not been publicly charged and would “unfairly suffer personal and professional reputational harm if it were publicly known that the government had investigated them for criminal conduct.”

Federal investigators described several other wiretapped calls involving Gabay. In one instance, Gabay talked to an unnamed official about getting a favor for a friend who needed help with a tax issue, according to the legal filing. He then phoned his friend, saying that he “took care of it” and that the official would call.

“I help his friends’ campaigns and things like that,” Gabay told the friend, according to the legal filing.

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U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek declined to comment on the filing Wednesday.


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