Contractor: FBI investigating Drayman remodel

Subcontractors for an affordable housing developer embroiled in a federal fraud investigation said this week that they were questioned by FBI agents about a remodeling job performed on former Councilman John Drayman’s condominium.

Ron Chamberlain — whose Orange County-based company D & A Coating & Restoration worked exclusively for the developer, Advanced Development & Investment Inc. — said he turned over records to the FBI about what he termed as off-the-books work at Drayman’s home.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency could not confirm or deny the investigation, but another subcontractor, who declined to be named, citing instructions from authorities, also confirmed that he met with federal agents to discuss the remodel and turn over related documents.

And in a letter responding to a citizen complaint, David Demerjian, head of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s public integrity division, said “because another law enforcement agency is currently reviewing that matter, this office will be taking no action.”

Drayman, who lost his City Council re-election bid in April under a cloud of controversy surrounding the renovations, has maintained he was unaware that the subcontractors worked for ADI.

Chamberlain said his company performed $8,000 worth of work at Drayman’s Montrose condo at the direction of an ADI manager, half of which was paid from an account for a 21-unit apartment complex in Los Angeles built by ADI in 2009.

“I was told not to submit any paperwork — no invoices, no emails with that address on them — that they would take care of it later,” Chamberlain said.

In December, Chamberlain said FBI agents questioned him about the remodel project, which he estimated having a total value of $200,000, and asked him to identify Drayman in a photo.

Glendale officials have also demanded an inspection of Drayman’s condominium to determine whether he underreported tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations in permits filed with the city after the work was done.

The allegations are the latest in the scandal surrounding ADI, accused by its own court-appointed receiver of defrauding Glendale, Los Angeles and other government agencies of at least $134 million.

Several attempts to reach Drayman, including a visit to his condo on Thursday, were unsuccessful, but in the past he was adamant that there was no “pay to play” involved and that he was unaware of the connection between the subcontractors and ADI.

But Chamberlain said he was asked to work on the condo project by an ADI manager who said the project was for a “very special friend” of the company.

During his four years in office, Drayman voted to provide $30.6 million in taxpayer subsidies to three ADI projects, although the third project, Glendale City Lights, never got off the ground after the fraud allegations became public.

Half of the $8,000 Chamberlain was owed for the work on Drayman’s condo was paid through an account intended for the construction of an ADI affordable housing development in Los Angeles, Manitou Vistas II, he said.

But the ADI manager, Khachik Zargarian, later called and allegedly told Chamberlain to tell investigators that he had been paid by Glendale-based subcontractor National Fire Systems & Services, who Drayman has said served as his general contractor.

“I didn’t feel too cool about that, so I told the FBI the truth when they asked me,” Chamberlain said.

Zargarian, who no longer works for ADI, refused to discuss the condominium work or respond to Chamberlain’s claims.

“I have already talked to the authorities, so I don’t have any comment,” he said.

Mike Thommassian, president of National Fire, confirmed that Zargarian coordinated Chamberlain’s work, but said he had no knowledge of the Manitou Vistas payment claims.

ADI overstated its costs at Manitou Vistas II by more than $2 million, according to a report prepared by a forensic accounting firm for David Pasternak, the court-appointed overseer of the company. A separate report filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court found that the project, despite its young age, already has maintenance problems, including stress cracks on the outdoor decks and cracks in the walls that make the structure vulnerable to water damage and mold.

That project was built by Pacific Housing Diversified, ADI’s construction arm.

Documents obtained by the News-Press show that the company’s in-house design manager, Beth Navarette, handled the precise specifications of Drayman’s condominium remodel: for his fireplace, cast iron detail work and dove-gray grout; for his kitchen, Golden Sienna hexagonal tile that currently costs $18.50 per square foot.

Last month, National Fire filed a lien on Drayman’s condo, claiming he still owed the company $98,222 in unpaid bills for the remodel.

Drayman has said that he intended to pay for the work through a monthly payment plan.

He also has said that he was unaware that Navarette was employed by ADI.

Chamberlain cast doubts on that, saying that his workers saw Drayman meet personally with Navarette on the job site “almost every day.”

“I don’t know how he couldn’t have known. I mean, Beth has been with ADI forever,” he said.

Los Angeles Times reporters David Zahniser and Jessica Garrison contributed to this report.

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