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Palmdale man implicated in County bribery scheme

Guilty plea to federal crime

City News Service | 6/26/2020, midnight

A former Los Angeles County employee who accepted nearly $300,000 in bribes and cheated on his taxes faced a potential federal prison term at sentencing this week.

Mohammad R. Tirmazi, 51, of Alta Loma was working in the county’s Internal Services Department when he accepted bribes from 2014 to 2017 from the owner of a low-voltage electrical wiring vendor that performed work for the county.

In exchange for cash, checks and gifts, Tirmazi helped steer lucrative county contracts to businesses or contractors that co-defendant Enrique Contreras knew would subcontract his electrical company, court records show.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax fraud charges and face up to 13 years each behind bars. Contreras, 39, of Palmdale is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

In exchange for the bribes, Tirmazi agreed to approve change orders that Contreras requested for work that wasn’t done, materials that weren’t bought or used, unnecessary work or materials, and work or materials that were generally overpriced, according to court documents.

Tirmazi also admits in his plea agreement that he did not report, or force Contreras to correct violations of the county’s Building and Safety Code or the National Electrical Code that Tirmazi uncovered during inspections of Tel-Pro Voice & Data, his co-conspirator’s wiring company.

In his plea agreement, Tirmazi admits that he generally considered Tel-Pro’s work to be “shoddy,’’ but he overlooked its poor work because of the bribes he received, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Corrupt public officials and powerful people who pay bribes pose a threat to our institutions and, as we see in this case, also can threaten public safety,’’ U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said when the pair agreed to plead guilty in April 2019. “Bringing these criminals to justice will help restore trust in our civic institutions.’’

In his plea agreement, Tirmazi also admits that he failed to report on his tax returns for years 2014 to 2016 a total of $355,107 of income he received from bribe payments and a side business selling IT equipment.

Contreras, in his plea agreement, admits that he failed to report a total of $636,454 of income he received from 2013 to 2017 as a result of his improper deduction of bribe payments and other personal expenses.

As part of their plea deals, both Tirmazi and Contreras agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal probe.

In his agreement, Contreras also admits to bribing Thomas J. Shepos, 70, of Palmdale, a public official formerly employed by the county in the Real Estate Division. Shepos pleaded guilty two years ago to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in December.