Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/23/2011 07:43:13 PM PDT
A San Bernardino County prosecutor on Monday described the actions of two Los Angeles area businessmen accused of bribing a county official with cash-stuffed envelopes as something “right out of the movies.”
A defense attorney, however, attacked the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness, calling him a liar whose testimony should be discarded by the jury.
Prosecutors allege brothers Arshak and Vartan Kouladjian attempted to bribe Bob Page, former chief of staff for county Supervisor Josie Gonzales, with $45,000 in cash, a new car, pricey bottles of Dom Perignon and with drainage improvements at a new home Page was purchasing.
The alleged bribes, prosecutors say, were in exchange for Page’s assistance in expediting an auto auction business in Bloomington the Kouladjians were trying to build but were thwarted by occupancy and infrastructure issues.
During one lunch meeting at the Black Angus restaurant in San Bernardino, Vartan Kouladjian slid a white sealed envelope with $15,000 in cash in it under a table to Page and told Page to “buy a cup of coffee” or “take your family on a vacation,” prosecutors say.
“It was literally handed under the table,” prosecutor Michael Abney said during his closing argument Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court. “Who passes $15,000 in cash under a table to a public official? Who says `buy a cup of coffee’ with an envelope full of cash?’ Actors in a TV movie, that’s who says it.”
It wasn’t the first time the Kouladjians attempted to bribe Page nor would it be the last, prosecutors argued during the five-week trial.
The Kouladjians first attempted to bribe Page with a white sealed envelope stuffed with 150 $100 bills in October 2007, prosecutors allege. Page rejected the offer and reported the incident to the District Attorney’s Office.
Page subsequently became part of a nearly 4-month undercover investigation by district attorney’s investigators and wore a body wire.
The Kouladjians are each charged with two felony counts of bribery and one felony count of attempted bribery. In February 2009, they rejected an offer by Judge Michael Dest to receive six months of jail and six months of electronic monitoring in exchange for guilty pleas.
Between October 2007 and February 2008, the Kouladjians tasked Page with facilitating the development of their auto auction business on Slover Avenue in exchange for bribes, say prosecutors. The first $15,000 came on condition Page knew what his “assignments” were, Abney said.
“They did it because they wanted to save time on the development. They did it because they wanted to save money. And they did it because they wanted to make money,” Abney said. “The intent to bribe in this case is overwhelming.”
Arshak Kouladjian’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, stressed to jury members that all they needed was a reasonable doubt to acquit his client and that there was plenty of reason to doubt the prosecution’s case.
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