LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Palmdale man was handed a two-year federal prison sentence today for paying bribes to secure lucrative contracts from Los Angeles County for his electrical wiring company.
Enrique Contreras, 39, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to serve three years on supervised release following his time in prison and pay restitution of $821,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Contreras admitted bribing two county officials, and in an effort to conceal the bribes and lower the taxes on his company -- Tel-Pro – falsely claimed that some of the bribes, along with other personal expenses, were legitimate business expenses.
Contreras pleaded guilty in May 2019 to federal counts of paying bribes and signing a false tax return, and cooperated with the government. He deposited the restitution amount with the court clerk to satisfy the obligation prior to sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Mohammad R. Tirmazi, 51, a former official with the county's Internal Services Department, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and signing a false tax return. The Upland man was sentenced last month to a year in federal prison for accepting nearly $300,000 in bribes from Contreras and then failing to report the income from those bribes and a side business on his federal tax returns.
In exchange for the bribes, Tirmazi approved orders requested by Contreras for, among other things, work that did not occur and materials that were not used on county projects. Tirmazi also admitted 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's work.
Some of those violations related to asbestos removal and Tel-Pro's failure to properly install cables. In his plea agreement, Tirmazi admitted that he generally considered Tel-Pro's work to be “shoddy,'' but he overlooked its poor work because of the bribes.
Contreras also admitted to bribing Thomas J. Shepos, 69, of Palmdale, a public official formerly employed by the county in the Real Estate Division. Shepos pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced by Klausner in December.
From roughly 2013 to 2016, Contreras made cash payments to Shepos, totaling about $200,000 to $300,000, in exchange for Shepos providing non-public county information and helping the electrical contractor secure contracts, prosecutors said.
As part of his plea agreement, Shepos also agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation.
One of the people from whom Shepos alleged he received bribes was real estate developer Arman Gabaee, 58, of Beverly Hills. Gabaee was arrested and subsequently indicted on federal bribery charges in 2018. His trial is scheduled for November in downtown Los Angeles.