Former FBI agent charged with pocketing bribes from organized crime figure
An organized crime figure paid an FBI agent $10,000 a month in exchange for sensitive law enforcement information, according to court documents charging the agent, Babak Broumand, in a conspiracy to bribe a public official.
Broumand was arrested Friday at a market near his home in Lafayette, according to Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI. He retired in January 2019, one month after agents served search warrants at his home and businesses. Broumand worked at the bureau for 20 years, most recently in national security investigations for the FBI’s San Francisco field office. It couldn’t be determined Friday if he’d retained a lawyer.
In smoky, members-only cigar lounges and the bars of luxurious Beverly Hills hotels, Broumand rubbed shoulders with organized crime figures and their corrupt associates in law enforcement, according to a 40-page affidavit signed by FBI special agent Michael Torbic.
In September 2014, at the Grand Havana cigar lounge in Beverly Hills, Broumand met a lawyer who noticed the agent had expensive tastes. Seeing Broumand sporting a gold Rolex and a Gucci belt, the lawyer later told investigators he saw “an opportunity to recruit” the agent, the affidavit said.
The lawyer, who wasn’t named in the affidavit, is described as an associate of Lev Aslan Dermen, a petroleum magnate convicted last month of conspiring to plunder a half-billion dollars in renewable energy credits from the U.S. Treasury. The lawyer is cooperating with investigators in hopes of receiving leniency for his crimes, which include bank fraud, making false statements and bribing two federal agents, according to Torbic’s affidavit.
His relationship with Broumand turned corrupt in 2015, when he talked with the agent about his salary and asked if he was willing to “do something on the side,” the affidavit said. In exchange for $10,000 a month, paid in $100 bills, Broumand queried the lawyer’s name and others in secret law enforcement databases, which can disclose subjects of investigations conducted by the FBI and other agencies, the affidavit said.
In addition to this monthly retainer, the lawyer told investigators he also purchased for Broumand the services of an escort and feted him in Las Vegas, which they flew to by private jet. In all, Broumand accepted bribes and perquisites worth more than $200,000, according to investigators.
“While these are disturbing allegations, we found no evidence to suggest this went beyond an isolated incident,” Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in a statement. “The agents who investigated this case did so with professionalism and objectivity.”
The lawyer told investigators he leveraged Broumand’s position as an FBI agent in incidents both trivial and with national security implications.
Pulled over in 2016, he told a Burbank police officer his black Escalade had no license plates because it was a law enforcement vehicle and flashed Broumand’s parking placard. He used the placard to park at a red curb outside his office, he told investigators.
The lawyer also asked Broumand to vet a member of the Qatari royal family, for whom he was planning to purchase a Lamborghini, a Porsche and opioid pain medications, according to the affidavit. The lawyer said he wanted to be sure the royal — unnamed in the affidavit — wasn’t involved in terrorism and terrorist financing. After Broumand reported the royal was “okay,” the lawyer bought the agent a Ducati motorcycle, helmet and accessories for about $36,000, the affidavit said.
Broumand told the lawyer an FBI source was working with a Libyan general, who was trying to launder $1 billion to $2 billion in funds taken from Libya, according to the affidavit. Torbic, the affidavit’s author, said he has reviewed FBI reports showing a source told Broumand that Moammar Kadafi, the late leader of Libya, had directed $2.5 billion to be smuggled out of the country before the Arab Spring.
Broumand wanted to use the lawyer’s private jet for the operation and siphon some money off for themselves, the lawyer told investigators. After the FBI decided against the operation, which it deemed too risky, Broumand told the lawyer they could pull it off themselves with the jet and some armed security, the lawyer told investigators. In the end, the agent decided such a mission was too dangerous, the affidavit said.
In 2015, the lawyer arranged a meeting between Broumand and Dermen at the Ten Pound Bar in the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, the affidavit said. He had previously asked the agent to query Dermen’s name in law enforcement databases.
Dermen, previously named Levon Termendzhyan, has been investigated by an array of law enforcement agencies for decades, but until the guilty verdict last month in his tax fraud case, he had never been convicted of a felony.
The lawyer later told investigators Dermen was “intimidated” that he’d corrupted an FBI agent, because despite Dermen’s history of suborning law enforcement officers, he “did not have a FBI special agent on his payroll.”
Mark Geragos, who has represented Dermen for more than a decade, said federal prosecutors had withheld information in Torbic’s affidavit throughout his client’s two-month trial in the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.
“It’s clear that the Main Justice lawyers were playing hide the ball,” Geragos said, referring the the Department of Justice, which dispatched attorneys specializing in tax crimes to prosecute Dermen. “All of this was kept from me, and Levon Termendzhyan is going to get a new trial.”
Dermen was close with two law enforcement figures: John Saro Balian, a former Glendale narcotics detective, and Felix Cisneros Jr., a former Homeland Security Investigations agent. Both were convicted of public corruption charges and sentenced to 21 months and 12 months, respectively, in federal prison.
In 2016, Broumand queried an FBI database for Cisneros, who was under investigation at the time for helping Dermen’s business partner travel illegally between the United States and Mexico, the affidavit said.
Broumand told the case agent, Brian Adkins, he’d run into Cisneros at a party at the Grand Havana cigar lounge for the lawyer, who was celebrating his admission to the California bar. He told Adkins he’d queried Cisneros in the database out of a “sixth sense,” but Akins was suspicious.
After this encounter, the affidavit said, Cisneros turned cold toward Santiago Garcia Gutierrez, a business partner of Dermen’s and confidential human source for the FBI, who was secretly recording his conversations with the Homeland Security agent. In subsequent meetings with Garcia Gutierrez, Cisneros used counter-surveillance tactics and made “false exculpatory statements,” as if he knew he was being recorded, the affidavit said.
After the party at the cigar lounge, Broumand told the lawyer he could no longer collect cash payments because he was “in trouble with the FBI,” the affidavit said.
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