CONTACT: Rachel Marshall, (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org Director of Communications / Policy Advisor / Assistant District Attorney
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced a grand jury indictment on 18 felony charges, including one charge of grand theft from an elder and 14 charges of grand theft by false pretense, against Beverly Hills attorney Kousha Berokim. It is alleged that Mr. 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 District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “These fraudulent lawsuits steal from San Francisco businesses and non-profits while doing nothing to actually promote greater access for disabled Americans. 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.”
It is alleged that these 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. 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.
The District Attorney’s Office has charged Mr. Berokim with 14 counts of grand theft by false pretense (Penal Code section 487(a)) with respect to 14 separate San Francisco small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
The District Attorney’s Office has further charged Mr. Berokim with one count of grand theft from an elder (Penal Code section 368(d)) for his alleged theft against the 89-year-old owner of Chinatown Kite Shop; and with attempted grand theft by false pretense (Penal Code section 664/487(a)) with respect to the three additional San Francisco small businesses who refused to pay him after receiving his fraudulent emails and letters.
Affected Businesses and Nonprofits
The victims of grand theft by false pretense, each of which paid more than $950 to Mr. Berokim, include 14 businesses and nonprofits. Victims include:
- 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; and
- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Three businesses were victims of attempted grand theft by false pretense, as these businesses refused to pay Mr. Berokim. These are:
- Tantrum Toy Shop;
- Fiat Lux; and
The Investigation and Prosecution
The nine-month investigation that resulted in Mr. Berokim’s indictment was led by Assistant District Attorney Gabriel Markoff and District Attorney Sr. Inspector Jason Collom, both assigned to the office’s Special Prosecutions Unit.
Mr. Berokim appeared for arraignment this morning in Department 22 of the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco. Arraignment was continued to June 2, 2022. The indictment is unsealed.