Thursday, August 27, 2009

Special Trials Unit Convicts City's Biggest Tax Cheat

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deputy City Attorney Richard Kraft, (pictured above with Investigator Brian Young from the Office of the Controller) successfully concluded the prosecution of the man who holds the dubious distinction of being at the top of the Office of Finance's "Top Debtors List." Kraft is the Supervising Attorney of the City Attorney's Special Trials Unit

After a three week trial, a jury unanimously convicted 47 year old Sohrab Sahab and his company, Prestige Parking, of a total of 295 counts comprising of:
135 counts of failing to remit parking occupancy taxes to the City;
149 counts of failing to file parking occupancy tax reporting forms; and
11 counts of operating parking lots in the City without a permit.

The convictions come in the wake of a 2006 investigation conducted by the City Attorney’s Office and City Controller's Waste, Fraud and Abuse Unit, working in close partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, following a referral from the Mayor’s Office. The investigation uncovered evidence that Prestige Parking had for years collected, but failed to pay, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in parking occupancy taxes for 29 parking lots.

“In these times of fiscal hardship for our City and our community, this should send a clear message that financial crimes against the City and taxpayers will not be tolerated,” said Kraft. Investigator Young worked with Kraft throughout the three years that this case has wended its way through the court's criminal and civil courts. The City Attorney’s Office is also currently pursuing a parallel civil action against Prestige Parking for additional unpaid taxes.

Despite City Controller Wendy Greuel's comment that "This conviction sends the message to all tax scofflaws, that cheating on your business taxes may seem appealing in the short-term, but we will do everything in our power to come after you and save taxpayer dollars," the Honorable Judge Edmund Clarke seemed less inclined to sentence Sahab to a lengthy jail sentence.

At the sentencing hearing on August 14, Judge Clarke dismissed the prosecution's suggested sentence of 4 years in jail as "too long," and expressed concerns as to whether the defendant was "too ill to go to jail."

Judge Clarke had patiently listened to defense attorney Roger Diamond's arguments that defendant suffered numerous health issues, especially a sleeping disorder (sleep apnea) requiring the use of a "CPAP device." Diamond asserted that the CPAP device would not be available to the defendant in County Jail, and in his sentencing memorandum, Diamond stated that "the court would be risking the imposition of a de facto death sentence on him by sentencing him to any stay in a lock up facility."

Judge Clarke seemed troubled by the issues raised by the defense and related a personal experience from his practice as a private attorney; he had represented a client whose husband had died as a result the lack of a CPAP device. The judge expressed doubts that the Jail would be able to take adequate care of the defendant due to his "many health issues." Accordingly, sentencing was continued to Thursday, August 20, at 1:30PM.

After the hearing Kraft immediately made arrangements to visit the Jail's medical facilities at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles, pictured below.

Kraft's strategy was to be fully prepared, with evidence as well as argument, to refute any doubt that the defendant could not receive adequate care in custody.

Kraft used the pictures below to prove that the County Jail had adequate, indeed, exceptional medical care facilities.

Scrupulously clean conditions in the Jail's medical ward

A single occupant cell in the medical ward

And a CPAP Device, one of several available to inmates in need

In addition to obtaining pictorial evidence, Kraft also interviewed key members of the Jail's medical staff, and had them subpoenaed, in court and ready to testify when the sentencing hearing took place.

Kraft's preparation paid off. Judge Clarke indicated that he was satisfied that the defendant would receive adequate medical care in the County Jail, and sentenced the defendant to 525 days in Jail, 10 years of probation and $295,000 in fines. Restitution to the City of Los Angeles was ordered, and will be the subject of further litigation.

The case attracted print and broadcast media attention, and the Fox 11 News report can be seen here:

Deputy City Attorney Richard Kraft deserves the thanks of all Los Angelenos, and in City Attorney Carmen Trutainch's words "I want to extend my congratulations to Richard and the Special Trials Unit for their outstanding efforts in this case, and on behalf of the City’s taxpayers."

Documents of interest:

Prosecution Sentencing Recommendation

Defense Sentencing Memorandum

Posted By: David Berger
Main Photo By: Nigel Skeet
Other Credits: Fox 11 News

Monday, August 17, 2009

Civil Litigation Team Saves City Millions

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deputy City Attorney Christian Bojorquez, together with DCAs Todd Hayward and Kelly Kades, successfully defended the City from a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by the mother of a 19 month old child who died because the child was used as a human shield by her father during a 2.5 hour shootout with LAPD's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers.

During the two week trial Bojorquez presented evidence to counter the plaintiff's contention that SWAT should not have returned fire as the child's father fired on Officers while holding his child in one hand, and a semi automatic firearm in the other. Exactly what the plaintiff expected SWAT to do was never entirely clear and it seemed as though the plaintiff expected a payout based on emotion rather than law.

The thrust of the case presented by Bojorquez on behalf of the City established that SWAT had acted appropriately in all the circumstances. The Honorable Judge Rolf Treu agreed, ruling that there was no way a reasonable jury could find that the Officers' attempts to rescue the child from her father were unreasonable or inappropriate. Judge Treu thus granted Bojorquez's motion to dismiss the case before the jury had completed their deliberations.

Bojorquez's skillful and persuasive advocacy saved the City of Los Angeles from a multi-million dollar verdict that, in the words of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, "could have bankrupted the City."

A full account of the facts surrounding this case can be found by clicking here.

We all owe Christian, Todd, Kelly and their support staffers, Sonia and Kelly, a huge vote of thanks for defending the City so ably and for upholding the finest traditions of the Office.

Posted By: David Berger
Photo By: Nigel Skeet

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Neighborhood Prosecutor for Korea Town

Monday, July 20th, 2009
Olympic Station, Korea Town

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich introduced his new Korea Town neighborhood prosecutor (NP), Minah Park, to leaders in L.A.’s Korean American community at the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles’ (KAFLA) annual board meeting.

NP Park, who is based at the Los Angeles Police Department’s new Olympic Station, served as a neighborhood prosecutor for the LAPD’s Newton Division prior to assuming her current position on July 8th. As the Olympic Station Neighborhood Prosecutor, Minah focuses on the day-to-day quality of life crimes and issues through vertical prosecution and other project-based work.

The KAFLA board meeting - which was held at the Dragon Restaurant in the heart of Korea Town - was filled with elected officials, KAFLA board members, community leaders, and Korean American legislative staff members.

The City Attorney - who was introduced by his Asian American Community Liaison Cindy Shin - also spoke to the 150 attendees about his goals for the office, his commitment to building the most diverse public law office in the nation, and his focus on building a solid partnership with the Asian American Community.

Posted By: Cindy Shin

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Annual City Attorney Family BBQ

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The flyer flew around the offices, announcing the first Annual City Attorney's Office Family BBQ Picnic of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's administration.

And so it was that at around 11am on Saturday morning the families of the City Attorney's Office started arriving at the Los Angeles Police Academy near Dodger Stadium and climbed the steps to the picnic grounds.

A 'warm' welcome a the top of the steps - the flaming grill from the BBQ filled the air with the mouthwatering promise of tasty treats to come as hamburgers and hotdogs crackled while our Chefs de Jour, Richard Wright, Larry Budzinski, and Fred Barry tended the BBQ. (Click on any of the photos for more detail, and don't miss the link at the end of the page for more photos).

It's hard to estimate how many people attended as throughout the 5 hour event, as many people were coming as were going, but 900 hamburgers and a similar number of hotdogs were served. So how many hamburgers and hotdogs did you eat?

The air was filled with the scent of good food and great music, provided by our DJ Frankie Dominguez.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mugs were on sale at a bargain price, and were snapped up.

The LACA Baker to Vegas Team was the fundraising the focus of the event, and thanks to your generosity $1,700 was raised to help the Team's expenses next year.

There was a simply amazing cake baked, donated by Tropicana Bakery, commemerating the Annual LACA BBQ proudly displayed at the Baker to Vegas Team's stand.

It was an event of 'firsts'! Certainly the first time a City Attorney event had a Dunk Tank. So when Nuch climbed the steps of the Dunk Tank, it wasn't long before a lucky shot dumped the City Attorney in the water.

The Annual LACA Family BBQ Picnic was made possible by donations - no public money was spent. But most of all it was made possible by the hard work of the many good people of the Office, some of whom are pictured here:

(Left to right) Leti, Stephanie, Ashley, Sheryl, Robbie, Maria and Francisco

Last and by no means least, thanks to our very own Bureau of Investigation Chief Gary Schram for making this even the success that it undoubtedly was.

Plans for next year's event are already underway, so if you have any comments or suggestions, please email Sheryl Smith at

Posted by: David Berger