LOS ANGELES – A well-known commercial real estate developer was arrested this morning on federal bribery charges alleging that he paid monthly bribes to a Los Angeles County employee for six years and submitted offers to purchase the employee a Santa Rosa residence for nearly $1.1 million in exchange for the developer obtaining a $45 million county lease.
Arman Gabaee, known professionally as Arman Gabay, 57, of Beverly Hills, was arrested at his home without incident this morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Gabaee, who is charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of bribery, is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
Gabaee, a co‑founder and co‑managing partner of the Charles Company, a Hollywood-based real estate development firm, allegedly paid cash bribes to the county employee for more than six years. According to the complaint, the employee, who is not named and is cooperating with the FBI, negotiated leases for the county to rent office space from private parties and had “significant autonomy to contractually bind the county.”
The complaint alleges that Gabaee paid the employee cash bribes of $1,000 or more every month for six years “in exchange for county leases, non-public information, and other benefits.” According to the complaint, Gabaee paid the employee thousands of dollars during covertly recorded meetings in late 2016 and early 2017.
Further, in 2017, Gabaee allegedly offered to purchase a Northern California residence for the county employee in exchange for the employee’s assistance securing a county lease in the Hawthorne Mall, which Gabaee was redeveloping. According to the complaint, Gabaee wanted the county to enter into a 10-year, $45 million lease to rent space in the Hawthorne Mall for the Department of Public Social Services and other county departments.
“Business leaders who use their wealth and influence to corrupt our government are a scourge on our community,” United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna said. “No one, no matter how prominent or wealthy, is above the law.”
During recorded meetings between Gabaee and the county employee, as well as phone conversations intercepted pursuant to federal wiretap orders, Gabaee allegedly offered to buy a million-dollar home for the county employee, in exchange for the employee’s assistance securing the $45 million county lease. According to the complaint, when Gabaee offered to buy the residence, Gabaee promised the employee even bigger bribes in the future, saying that things would only get “better” if the employee continued to assist Gabaee with securing other county contracts.
The FBI’s investigation and intercepted communications showed Gabaee taking numerous steps in 2017 to locate a property in Northern California to use as leverage to get the employee’s assistance obtaining the $45 million county lease, according to the complaint. Gabaee ultimately settled on a home on eight acres of land in Santa Rosa wine country that was listed for $1,095,000. Without ever seeing the property, Gabaee allegedly told an associate to “make the offer” on the home “ASAP” as a bribe for the employee. Intercepted communications allegedly showed Gabaee taking steps to try to disguise his ownership interest in the property, telling the associate that the offer on the property could not be in Gabaee’s name and that he wanted to conceal his ownership interest in the property through some type of entity.
In April 2017, Gabaee allegedly placed two offers on the Santa Rosa residence, first for $1,035,000 and later for $1,065,000. According to the complaint, immediately after FBI agents approached Gabaee and told him they were aware of the bribe arrangement, Gabaee’s latest offer on the property was withdrawn within hours.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted of the bribery charge alleged in the complaint, Gabaee would face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The ongoing investigation in this matter is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ruth C. Pinkel and Lindsey Greer Dotson of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.