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The Real Deal Los Angeles

City probe alleges pattern of theft, verbal abuse at Buildings Department

Report finds thousands of dollars made to phony company and a supervisor who humiliated employees
June 18, 2018 08:00AM

Los Angeles City Hall (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

City investigators are alleging a pattern of theft at the Department of Buildings and Safety, including payments to a phony company, unauthorized purchases, falsified invoices, and improper travel expenses.

The findings have been turned over to Lost Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey for review, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Much of the alleged misconduct happened at the Buildings Department technology division, led by Deputy Superintendent of Buildings, Giovani Dacumos. The probe started as an inquiry into accusations Dacumos had yelled at employees.

During that investigation, officials found that systems aide Riel Ortiz authorized nearly $25,000 in payments to the non-existent firm, JSC Consulting. Her friend, Josephine C. Santos, said she received the money and gave it all back to Ortiz, who claimed that she gave it to Dacumos.

Ortiz is also accused of improperly paying Cerritos-based Golden Star Technology around $4 million for services that were never delivered.

The city is on track to recover all of that money and has created new rules to prevent advance payments like them.

In addition to the theft allegations at the Buildings Department, Dacumos is accused of verbally abusing employees and punishing them in humiliating ways, like forcing at least one to eat an entire pizza pie. He was particularly combative to an employee with whom he had had a romantic relationship, according to investigators.

The disturbing allegations come less than a decade after the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that three building inspectors were taking thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors to approve and fast-track projects.

The allegations come a month after the FBI charged Charles Company founder Arman Gabay with bribery. Gabay allegedly paid a county official tens of thousands of dollars and attempting to buy him a $1 million Santa Rosa home in exchange for help securing a $45 million lease with a county department. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch