A former public official in Los Angeles County’s Real Estate Division, who was involved in awarding contracts to real estate developers and contractors, agreed this week to plead guilty to lying to FBI agents and filing a false tax return in an effort to cover up his receipt of illegal bribes.
Thomas M. Shepos, 68, of Palmdale agreed to enter his plea at a future date to felony charges of making false statements in which he denied receiving bribes and kickbacks while working for the county and filing a false return for the year 2014 in which he failed to report $139,400 in income, including more than $100,000 in bribe payments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In his plea agreement, Shepos admits that he failed to report a total of $434,000 in income received over a seven-year period. As part of his plea deal, Shepos has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation, according to prosecutors.
For about 20 years, until he retired last year, Shepos worked in the county’s Real Estate Division, where he negotiated leases and contract terms with private developers and contractors. According to the plea agreement, because of his seniority, Shepos had “significant autonomy to contractually bind the county.’’
Shepos admitted accepting bribes from Arman Gabaee, a Beverly Hills real estate developer who was indicted in May on bribery and wire fraud charges in connection with his attempts to secure a $45 million county lease in the Hawthorne Mall, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Beginning in 2010 or 2011, Gabaee began giving Shepos monthly bribe payments of $1,000 or more in exchange for Shepos providing Gabaee with non-public information and preferential treatment, according to the plea agreement, which was filed Wednesday.
The agreement further states that Gabaee offered to buy a million-dollar property in Northern California as a bribe for Shepos. In exchange for the property, Gabaee sought Shepos’ assistance securing a lease for the county’s Department of Public Social Services in the Hawthorne Mall, which Gabaee owned and was redeveloping, prosecutors allege.
Shepos also admitted in the plea agreement that he accepted bribes totaling $250,000 to $300,000 from an unnamed electrical contractor in exchange for his assistance securing five to seven county contracts ultimately awarded to the contractor.
When interviewed by federal agents in November 2016, Shepos lied about the bribery schemes, falsely claiming that he had never received anything of value from anyone doing business with the county, according to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also contends Shepos lied about numerous unexplained deposits into his bank accounts, claiming that the funds were gambling proceeds, as opposed to bribes or kickbacks.
“Corrupt officials who abuse their power to line their own pockets undermine the public’s trust in government,’’ said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “We are committed to ending these backroom deals and bringing these criminals to justice.’’
Shepos will likely be ordered to appear for arraignment in downtown Los Angeles later this month.
Once he enters guilty pleas to the two charges, Shepos will face up to eight years in prison, prosecutors said.
Gabaee is currently scheduled to go on trial in February.