SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Beverly Hills attorney Kousha Berokim has been indicted for an alleged scheme demanding monetary settlements from San Francisco businesses and nonprofits to avoid Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuits.
District Attorney Chesa Boudin said among the grand jury charges Berokim faces were one for grand theft from an elder and 14 counts of grand theft by false pretense.
The charges culminated from a nine-month investigation.
Berokim allegedly 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 ADA lawsuits for alleged website-accessibility violations if they did not enter into settlements and pay him sums of money to resolve the claims.
Among the businesses targeted were San Francisco's famed City Lights Booksellers & Publishers and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
"We continue to take action against unscrupulous attorneys who are exploiting vulnerable small business owners," Boudin said in a news release. "These fraudulent lawsuits steal from San Francisco businesses and non-profits while doing nothing to actually promote greater access for disabled Americans."
It is alleged that these emails and letters were false because, as reflected in the federal courts' public records, Berokim has never filed any such ADA cases and had no intent to file them.
For at least one business, Berokim's client never visited the website in question. Fourteen of his alleged victims paid Berokim amounts of $950 or more, while the remaining three victims refused to pay him and were not sued.
The victims of alleged grand theft by false pretense, each of which paid more than $950, included these businesses and nonprofits.
- Chinatown Kite Shop
- Mollusk Surf Shop
- Amour Vert, Inc.
- F. Dorian
- Natural Resources All Families Foundation
- Alla Prima
- Banner Uniform Company
- Go Figure
- Alexander Book Company
- Cole Hardware
- City Lights Booksellers & Publishers
- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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