LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The owner of the development company that sought to bring a Lowe’s to Alhambra last year was arrested on federal bribery charges this week.
Arman Gabaee, 57, was charged with paying monthly bribes to and attempting to purchase a home for a Los Angeles County employee in exchange for a $45 million lease, according to a press release from Nicole T. Hanna, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. He was arrested on Wednesday by FBI special agents and released on a $1 million bond, said Thom Mrozek, U.S Attorney’s Office spokesperson, in an email.
The federal complaint alleges that Gabaee paid monthly cash bribes of $1,000 for six years to the employee who negotiated leases for the county to rent offices from private companies “in exchange for county leases, non-public information, and other benefits,” according to the press release. In 2017, Gabay attempted to make an offer on a home in Santa Rosa, Calif., valued at more than $1 million for the employee, in exchange for the negotiation of a 10-year $45 million lease from L.A. County to rent space in the Hawthorne Mall, which Gabaee was redeveloping.
Gabaee, who is known professionally as Arman Gabay, is the co-founder and the co-owner of the Charles Company, the developer who tried to bring a Lowe’s to Alhambra in early 2017. Lowe’s withdrew from the development last fall after a local group, Grassroots Alhambra, filed a lawsuit to block construction.
Records show that Gabaee donated $5,000 each to the successful Alhambra City Council campaigns of Jeff Maloney and David Mejia in 2016. Maloney told the Alhambra Source that in light of the charges against Gabaee, he was donating the contribution to local non-profit and community groups. “During the campaign, I had the support of a lot of friends and family members and community members,” he said. “While I can’t be held responsible for the actions of any of those supporters, the right thing for me to do is to not keep this contribution.”
Alhambra City Attorney Joseph Montes said that he was unaware of any impropriety from Gabaee that was related to the Lowe’s project or Alhambra. Neither Mejia nor other city officials returned requests for comment.
Ron Sahu, an Alhambra resident and member of Grassroots Alhambra, said that this should be a lesson to the city to take a closer look at project applicants. “[Gabaee] was touted as being an upstanding developer, but was it all based on his words or does the city have a mechanism to vet that?’ he asked. “Until they have that, they’re liable to run into risks like that.”