Developer cops to bribe of LA County real estate official

Arman Gabaee, co-founder of Charles Co., will enter plea Monday for bribes connected to a Hawthorne Mall lease

Arman Gabaee with 12000 Hawthorne Blvd (Daily Breeze) Guilty, Court
Arman Gabaee with 12000 Hawthorne Blvd (Daily Breeze)

A Beverly Hills developer has agreed to plead guilty to bribing a Los Angeles County official in exchange for help in securing a government lease worth $45 million in the Hawthorne Plaza mall

Arman Gabaee, 61, also known as Arman Gabay, is scheduled to enter his plea to a federal bribery charge on May 2, KFIam640 and the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported. The charge could bring 10 years in prison.

Gabaee, a co-founder and co-managing partner of the Charles Company. a Hollywood-based commercial and residential real estate firm, admitted paying the employee $1,000 a month in bribes and kickbacks for more than six years.

He also offered to buy him a $1.15 million home in Santa Rosa wine country in exchange for signing off on the lucrative mall lease.

The former official whom Gabaee bribed was Thomas M. Shepos, 72, of Palmdale, who worked in Los Angeles County’s Real Estate Division and awarded contracts to real estate developers and contractors.

Gabaee was pushing Shepos to get L.A. County to sign off on a 10-year, $45 million lease in the blighted Hawthorne Plaza mall — which the developer owned and was redeveloping — to house various county departments.

From 2011 through 2017 Gabaee paid Shepos the bribes and kickbacks in exchange for county leases, preferential contract terms, non-public information and other benefits, federal prosecutors said.

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In 2016, Shepos began cooperating with the FBI, which recorded secret meetings with Gabaee. From December 2016 to April 2017, Gabaee paid Shepos $6,000 in cash bribes.

Gabaee also offered to buy Shepos a Northern California home in exchange for help in inking the Hawthorne Plaza deal. In April 2017, the developer made offers on a $1-million home in Santa Rosa, but quickly withdrew the offer when confronted by FBI agents.

As part of the plea agreement, Gabaee will pay a $1.15 million fine.

Meanwhile, Gabaee and his brother Mark Gabay have continued development for their Charles Company, while moving forward to convert a 10-story office building into a 154-room hotel in Beverly Hills.

In August, the brothers bought a three-building office portfolio in Pasadena for $80 million. They are also planning to build a large residential and retail development in West Hollywood.

Shepos pleaded guilty in November 2018 to making false statements to federal investigators who were investigating his financial relationship with Gabaee and to signing a false tax return, both felonies. He faces up to eight years in federal prison, and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27.

[KFIam640] – Dana Bartholomew