By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A grand jury indictment, following a nine-month investigation, was handed down here Thursday—against Beverly Hills attorney Kousha Berokim on 18 felony charges, including one charge of grand theft from an elder and 14 charges of grand theft by false pretense, according to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
The indictment alleges Berokim “sent 17 San Francisco businesses and nonprofit organizations emails and letters in which he purported to represent a blind Californian, threatening those businesses with federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for alleged website-accessibility violations if they did not enter into settlements and pay him sums of money to resolve the claims.”
“We continue to take action against unscrupulous attorneys who are exploiting vulnerable small business owners,” said Boudin. “These fraudulent lawsuits steal from San Francisco businesses and non-profits while doing nothing to actually promote greater access for disabled Americans.”
Boudin added, “My office is committed to supporting past victims and preventing these crimes in the future. A lawyer misusing the courts to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting small business owners is theft and we will prosecute it.”
The DA.s office, in a statement, alleged the lawyer’s “emails and letters were false because, as reflected in the federal courts’ public records, Mr. Berokim has never filed any such ADA cases and had no intent to file them.”
The SFDA added, “Moreover, for at least one business, it is alleged that Mr. Berokim’s client never visited the website in question. In reliance on Mr. Berokim’s false statements, 14 of his victims paid him amounts of $950 or more, while the remaining three victims refused to pay him and were not sued.”
Berokim had an arraignment in SF Superior Court Thursday, but it was continued to June 2.
The SF District Attorney’s Office said it has charged Berokim with 14 counts of grand theft by false pretense involving 14 separate San Francisco small businesses and nonprofit organizations, including: Chinatown Kite Shop; Mollusk Surf Shop; Vert Inc.; F. Dorian; Reliquary; Natural Resources All Families Foundation; Alla Prima; Banner Uniform Company; Go Figure; Alexander Book Company; Cole Hardware, City Lights Booksellers & Publishers; and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Berokim has also been charged with “one count of grand theft from an elder for his alleged theft against the 89-year-old owner of Chinatown Kite Shop; and with attempted grand theft by false pretense with respect to the three additional San Francisco small businesses who refused to pay him after receiving his fraudulent emails and letters.”
The DA’s office, in summary, said victims of grand theft by Berokim include 14 businesses and nonprofits. Three businesses were victims of attempted grand theft by false pretense, as these businesses refused to pay Mr. Berokim.