FBI investigating wrongdoing with Bel Air mansion
Building inspector allegedly received “items of value”
UPDATED on Oct. 29, 2018 at 1:10 p.m.:
The saga of Mohamed Hadid’s unfinished mega-mansion in Bel Air has now become a federal investigation.
In a deposition this month, a Los Angeles city investigator said he discovered evidence that a city employee tasked with inspecting the 30,000-square-foot home on Strada Vecchia Road had received “items of value” in connection with that job, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The investigator, Randolph Osborne, said he believed “there was a crime potentially committed” by the inspector with the Department of Building and Safety, and he shared that information with the FBI, which opened an investigation into the matter.
Osborne added that his city investigation is also still open.
Jeff Costell, an attorney representing Hadid, said that the developer did not provide anything of value to a building inspector.
Officials are prohibited from accepting gifts when it is “reasonably foreseeable” that it could influence them, according to city rules. Osborne did not specify what evidence was discovered, what items were received, nor from whom they came from. The FBI investigates corruption and fraud in housing.
The findings could impact a lawsuit against Hadid, the real estate developer behind the project. Bel Air neighbors sued Hadid, and want the property demolished.
Hadid and the project manager, Russell Linch, contended in the court case that the site was inspected regularly during construction. Attorney George Soneff, a partner with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who represents the neighbors, said the alleged gifts could be the answer to the question they’ve been asking: “How in the world could this massive illegal structure have been built in full view of city building inspectors?”
Hadid had boasted that the spec mansion would be worth $100 million. But Los Angeles County first assessed the property at $70 million, leaving him with a hefty tax bill. Hadid successfully reduced the bill by $500,000 by arguing the property was worth just $10 million.
In August, the county reassessed the property at $29 million. In a memo regarding the change, appraiser Laura Booth said the home was “not an ultra high-end luxury improvement.” She added that some of the building would have to be demolished as part of a settlement in a criminal case, for violating dozens of zoning violations, which reduced its value.