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Leader of L.A.'s engineer and architect union arrested with wife on suspicion of grand theft [UPDATED]

May 7, 2011 | 10:52 am

The leader of the union that represents architects and engineers for the city of Los Angeles was arrested earlier this week, along with his wife, on suspicion of grand theft, the Los Angeles Police Department announced Saturday.

Josif Kahraman, 51, executive director of the Engineers and Architects Assn. (EAA), and his wife, Ani Kahraman, an EAA volunteer, were arrested at the union's headquarters downtown at about 9:50 p.m. on Wednesday.

The couple was accused by other union members of taking a laptop computer, according to LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon. The couple denied taking the device. However, after being interviewed by police officers, one union member reportedly removed the laptop from a hiding place, Vernon said. "They were trying to keep the owner, the union in this case, from having that computer," Vernon said. "That's a theft."

Kahraman and his wife were released from jail after posting bail on Thursday. The LAPD said the investigation into the matter was ongoing.

[Updated at 11:59 p.m.: “These are unfounded allegations,”  said Lara Yeretsian, the attorney for Josif and Ani Kahraman.  “I can very comfortably tell you that a crime was not committed,” she added. “There was never at any time an intent to deprive anyone -- especially the union -- of the laptop.” She said her clients would not be making comments to the media.]

The arrest has caused a shakeup in the union's leadership.

In a letter released to its membership recently, the union said it had placed Kahraman on a leave of absence. Additionally, board members Aida Tomines, Frank Giles and Jeff Paxton were also suspended on unspecified allegations of misconduct. "The charges are of a serious nature and, if true, jeopardize the ability of your Board of Governors to handle sensitive information and maintain confidentiality on serious issues affecting our union," the letter read.

Two labor representatives, Richard Sanchez and Michael Davies, were also placed on leave from their positions, the letter said.

The union represents 5,000 employees in the city of Los Angeles and is the oldest continuously operating city union, according to the group's website. Created in 1894, the union has members in a wide variety of departments.

-- Ruben Vives