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Publisher convicted of forging contracts

Castaic resident to serve jailtime, pay restitution for faking deals with advertisers

Posted: June 17, 2012 8:40 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2012 8:40 p.m.

Michael Sepehri

 

A local magazine publisher convicted of forging advertising contracts has been sentenced to 120 days in the Los Angeles County jail, 3 years felony probation and ordered to pay more than $370,000 to 30 victims in the case,

Michael Sepehri, 51, of Castaic, was sentenced Thursday and, in addition to jail time, was ordered to $370,753.97 in restitution to local business owners, according to a media release issued by Commercial Crimes Bureau Det. Steve McCauley of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Sepehri, through his office on Magic Mountain Parkway since 1996, published the Greater Santa Clarita Valley Resource Guide and two similar magazines for the Antelope Valley and Ventura County.

In July 2009, several business owners approached the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station and reported they had been victimized by Sepehri, McCauley said in his release.

They had negotiated a one-year advertising contract with Sepehri, they alleged, to advertise in publications that have printed for more than 15 years.

"A dispute arose between Sepehri and the business owners regarding the terms of the contracts," McCauley said. "Sepehri contended they had signed multi-year contracts, while the victims adamantly maintained they had only signed one-year contracts to advertise."

"When the victims refused to pay for the extended terms in the contract, Sepehri threatened civil litigation, and in some cases carried through with this threat," McCauley said. "He sued several of the victims, falsely claiming they had signed longer term contracts, and then forcing them into expensive court hearings, where he produced fraudently altered contracts."

In February 2010, McCauley and his detectives searched Sepehri's Santa Clarita Valley home and seized "hundreds of customer contracts."

Forensic analysis of those contracts at the bureau's crime lab revealed that many of them had been alerted.

Detectives identified 42 local victims.

On Aug. 23, 2011, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office filed a criminal complaint against Sepehri alleging 52 felony counts including: forgery, grand theft, and attempted grand theft.

Sepehri eventually agreed to a deal in which he was permitted to plead guilty to only two forgery counts, admit to special allegations regarding excessive victim losses, and agree to pay full restitution to the victims, McCauley said.

There is no evidence, he said, to indicate any of the employees of the business were aware of the fraudulent activity, and investigators believe they were not involved.

jholt@the-signal.com

661-287-5527

 

 

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