Nader Karimi, former chief information officer for the SAG Pension & Health Plans, has been granted five years’ probation after pleading guilty to filing a false tax return in connection with allegedly embezzling over $700,000.
The federal government had asked U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Olguin to follow sentencing guidelines that called for a jail term of 18 to 24 months, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Davis. But the jurist sided with the U.S. Probation Office, which had recommended that he serve no jail time.
Karimi’s attorney Sara Azari argued that her client had expressed deep remorse for his actions and had lived an “exemplary” life other than the embezzlement.
Olguin ordered Karimi to serve eight months of home detention with electronic monitoring, pay $208,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and make an additional restitution payment of at least $100,000 to the plans.
Karimi had pleaded guilty on Nov. 12 to filing a false return, admitting that he failed to report income of $711,316 during 2005 through 2008.
During 2005 through 2009, he was chief information officer for the SAG plans, which are operated independently of the union and overseen by a board that’s comprised of equal numbers of representatives of employers and of the union. His duties included modernization of the plans’ computer information and technology systems.
Karimi was also an officer during that time at Entertainment Technology and Management Solutions and was responsible for causing the plans to enter into contracts and work agreements with ETMS. “Defendant caused these payments to ETMS to be deposited in the ETMS bank account, after which defendant used the sums to pay for personal expenses,” the plea agreement said.
Allegations against Karimi emerged in 2011 when fired plan exec Craig E. Simmons filed a complaint with the federal government asserting that he was terminated for acting as a whistleblower about alleged embezzlement at the fund by Karimi. Simmons also filed a wrongful termination suit against the plans, accusing the plans’ longtime CEO Bruce Dow of covering up the embezzlement.
Dow retired in 2012. Simmons’ suit was settled in arbitration in 2014.
The SAG and AFTRA health and pension plans have continued to operate separately, more than four years after members of SAG and AFTRA voted to merge the performers unions. The merger was touted as a way to merge the health and retirement plans, but efforts to do so have not been successful.