Tai Sunnanon charged with embezzlement

Tai Sunnanon, a one-time chair of West Hollywood’s Public Facilities Commission, has been charged with embezzlement by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, according to the organization he allegedly stole from. 

The California Independent Cities Association filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department on Feb. 5, 2021, alleging that Sunnanon embezzled $47,937 from the organization where he worked under contract as executive director from June 2017 to September 2019. According to the complaint, Sunnanon took control of a payment processing platform through which CICA received money for such things as event tickets and had those payments directed to his personal Chase Bank account.

CICA is a non-profit organization made up of nearly 40 cities in the Southern California area that focuses on public safety, education, infrastructure, legislative advocacy, intergovernmental relationships and other issues that transcend the boundaries of its member cities. The cities that are among its members include Beverly Hills, Culver City, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.

According to the complaint, Nehrenheim first noticed in November 2019 that payments for six of the tickets sold for CICA’s 2019 Winter Seminar event, each costing $600, weren’t appearing in the CICA bank account. Nehrenheim said he asked Sunnanon about those payments and then suddenly discovered that the CICA payment processing system was shut down.  He reached out to Stripe, operator of the system, which agreed to re-activate the system. Nehrenheim reported that Sunnanon claimed that his accountant had accidentally  misdirected the payments to Sunnanon’s personal bank account. Nehrenheim questioned why Sunnanon’s accountant would have had access to the CICA account.

In the Sheriff’s Department report, Nehrenheim says Sunnanon agreed to repay the money from the six event tickets and sent CICA a check in the amount of $2,915 from the Strategic Insights Group, a non-profit organization founded by Sunnanon. However, Nehrenheim noted, that $2,915 amount was less than the $3,494 that Stripe was supposed to have transferred to the CICA account after deducting $106 in transaction fees.

Nehrenheim told the Sheriff’s Department that while Sunnanon resigned as CICA’s executive director on Sept. 26, 2019, he volunteered to continue working with the organization until it transitioned to a new director, and Nehrenheim, then the organization’s treasurer, wasn’t granted control of the Stripe account until March 2020.

On March 13, 2020, CICA’s attorney sent Sunnanon an email demanding payment of the nearly $45,000 in remaining money that had been diverted to Sunnanon’s personal bank account. Sunnanon “responded to the email stating he was on a mission with the United States Air Force without access to email or phone,” says the Sheriff’s Department report. However, the report notes that Sunnanon posted announcements online about an upcoming webinar on March 26, 2020, an indication that he wasn’t on active duty.

A search of a U.S. Department of Defense database shows that since March 18, 2020, Sunnanon has only been on active duty from May 25, 2020 to Sept. 19, 2020. CICA’s attorney sent certified copies of the payment demand letter on April 9 and April 13 to Sunnanon’s mailing address on Havenhurst Drive, which also is listed as the address of his Strategic Insights Group. 

Sunnanon’s Strategic Insights Group originally was registered with the state of California in 2015 as a 501 c3 (non-profit) organization under the name “si3 consulting group.”

Through SIG, Sunnanon also had worked on  various political campaigns. One was the Yes on Measure B campaign in  Burbank in 2016, which was an effort to pave the way for construction of a new terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport. Sunnanon filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Save Burbank Neighborhoods, a resident group opposing Measure B, was a campaign committee and did not register as one.  The FPPC rejected his claim, saying there was no evidence that the group received $2,000 or more in campaign donations during a calendar year, which would have required it to register.  

Sunnanon also managed the successful No on Measure N campaign in Glendale in 2016, which was funded by developers such as Rick Caruso and city vendors. The No on Measure N campaign was an effort to block passage of a ballot measure that would have repealed a city tax that residents paid on their utility bills. Supporters of Measure N argued that revenue from that tax was used to pay exorbitantly high wages to city officials.

For the Social Good, another  organization created by Sunnanon in October 2015 (although not as a non-profit), was dissolved in January 2017 after a controversy over its use of WeHo’s French Market building at 7985 Santa Monica Blvd. as  office space for “socially conscious” businesses. Sunnanon’s For the Social Good entered into a contract with Faring, the developer that owns the property, under which Faring allowed the non-profit to use office space in the building for community organizations until Faring finally obtained the necessary approvals to convert the French Market into office space and a restaurant and bar. 

Non-profit tenants at the French Market under this For the Social Good plan included the  Lavender Effect,  an organization formed to chronicle LGBT history;  the Dance Resource Center;  the  Southeast European Film Festival; the  Los Angeles Volleyball Association, and  Mercy for Animals. Other for-profit tenants include GTM, a visa and passport agency; EKLaw, a legal firm; Glam Production Consulting, and West Hollywood Media Company, then publisher of WEHOville and West Hollywood Magazine.

Those organizations paid rents well under the market rate and paid For the Social Good an additional $150 a month to cover the costs of workshops, education programs and training events. However, Sunnanon did not provide those services and Faring, which was said to have paid $14,000 a month for taxes, maintenance, utilities and security for the property, did not receive any of the rent money paid by the tenants to For the Social Good. Just a few months after the opening of the For the Social Good space, Sunnannon said he was handing it back to Faring, which planned to increase the rents sharply.  Faring, facing complaints from the tenants, agreed to let them  remain in the space until August 2017  with no increase in their rents.

While working as executive director of the California Independent Cities Association, Sunnanon also was involved in a dispute with Vivian Romero, a member of the City Council of Montebello, a CICA member. Sunnanon asked a judge to issue a restraining order against Romero, who he said had shoved him and called him a liar and a thief at a CICA conference in Santa Barbara in January 2018.  Romero claimed that Sunnanon had failed to pay Shannon Calland, her romantic partner, who had been hired by Strategic Insights Group to work as a consultant.  A judge said he didn’t believe that calling Sunnanon a liar and thief warranted issuing a restraining order, and he ordered Sunnanon to pay $3,000 to Romero to cover legal costs associated with Sunnanon’s claim.

On his social media platforms, Sunnanon calls out his work for the Peace Corps, for which he was acknowledged in March 2020 with a “40 Under 40 Leadership Award.” He also says that he was the founder in 1996 of California WISH (Working in Support of the Homeless) and in 2006 of SeaVit, an organization in Southeast Asia created with the support of the government of the Philippines to extract vitamins from oysters to address vitamin deficiency among South East Asian children.  A search of IRS and State of California business registration databases turns up no mention of California WISH while SeaVit is not registered in California or the Philippines.

Sunnanon was elected as a delegate to the California Democratic Party representing District 50. He ran on the “Grassroots Slate” and got the endorsements of the late Ivy Bottini, Beverly Hills City Councilmember John Mirisch, West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath and City Councilmember John Erickson, LA County Assessor Jeffrey Prang,  and state Assemblymember Richard Bloom.  

Sunnanon had been an at-large member of the West Hollywood Public Facilities Commission, which means he was endorsed by a majority of the City Council members.

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Ryan Gierach
9 days ago

Henry Scott, the former publisher of this publication, was all in on this fellow. Wrote extensive features about him. Praised him to the hilt.
Fellows in crime.

Love Weho
Love Weho
9 days ago
Reply to  Ryan Gierach

If being “all in” on Sunnanon includes writing a piece outlining his accused crimes, you are absolutely correct.

https://wehoville.com/2021/03/22/wehos-tai-sunnanon-accused-of-embezzling-funds-from-non-profit-government-agency/

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
8 days ago
Reply to  Ryan Gierach

Huh? Factually incorrect. Is that the best you’ve got from your new perch in San Pedro? The ongoing contempt you display for Mr. Scott belies your claim to status as a “journalist”, retired or otherwise.

Ryan Gierach
7 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I am not quite sure which part of selling a business and retiring demands professional journalistic objectivity, but you, as a wage worker (general manager, isn’t it?) must have deep insights in my blindspot.
Do we all use the fact that you don’t seem to be in a position to own a business (manager or not) as a disqualifier for all nonsense you spout?

Ryan Gierach
7 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

By the way, Henry Scott was one of the first to sublet from this crimer. Fact.
I never trusted him.
Fact.

Ryan Gierach
7 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I am guessing that you strongly believe that priests who give up the cloth must forever an anon desist from sexual ralations too, right?
Let me help with your logical fallacy. This list is useful.
https://utminers.utep.edu/omwilliamson/ENGL1311/fallacies.htm

David
David
11 days ago

Such a charming fellow…

Matthew Flanagan
Matthew Flanagan
11 days ago

Wow. You guys nailed this guy to the cross. Sounds like he deserves it

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
11 days ago

I understand the “birds of a feather” comments and “tip of the iceberg” and if they are fair comments, then we should also start focusing light on Sepi Shyne’s relationship with Melahat Rafiei who was a campaign consultant to Shyne and who swore Shyne in as mayor pro tem. Rafiei resigned from various positions with the Democratic Party, including as state party secretary, after fallout from her alleged role in the Anaheim Stadium fiasco (in which the mayor of Anaheim was also forced to resign) and is now a “cooperating” witness in the FBI probe of that matter. Court records… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by Alan Strasburg
Tip of the Iceberg
Tip of the Iceberg
11 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I pointed that out the day Sepi was sworn in as it was very disturbing after having done some immediate research, but clearly illuminated that Sepi was being groomed for future escapades. No one was quick on the uptake. My sense of Sepi has and is proving the worst. Thanks for digging deeper.

Ryan Gierach
5 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Whataboutism!
WHATABOUT ANAHEIM!
Stripped straight from the MAGA play book.
Here’s another chance to learn how to avoid fallacious assertions in debate.
https://utminers.utep.edu/omwilliamson/ENGL1311/fallacies.htm

James Francis
James Francis
12 days ago

This is absolutely disturbing that an individual was given access to so many organizations, then chaired a West Hollywood public utilities Comission, while acting as a consultant/lobbyist to hinder utility complaints of another city of fellow county residents questioning taxation on such topic as utilities—a definite conflict of interest, all the while lying about his experiences and accomplishments of his career that weren’t even registered in the state of California or elsewhere for that matter. His status intertwined with newly elected or re-elected politicians in Weho gave him access/ able to become a political appointee and use a podium to… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by James Francis
Tip of An Iceberg
Tip of An Iceberg
12 days ago
Reply to  James Francis

There you have it James, you laid it out which is why I referred to him as one of the many icebergs. It’s an established pattern and West Hollywood is prime fishing ground. Connect the dots folks, we see them daily.

L. Helmsley
L. Helmsley
11 days ago
Reply to  James Francis

He chaired WeHo’s Public Facilities Commission, nothing to do with utilities.

James Francis
James Francis
11 days ago
Reply to  L. Helmsley

Correction Appointed Commissioner public facilities but was a lobbyist in Glendale for the public utility companies/taxation of residents at the same time. He was appointed director of contract cities while also its treasurer, public money funneled into his private bank account. He stole 50,000 that wasn’t his, that’s what I meant to say, either way one is suppose to state per city law if you are a commissioner as well as a lobbyist that may pose conflict of interests to issues as a city appointee and a paid employee/consultant and to not steal money that belongs reserved for a non… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by James Francis
Michael on Havenhurst
Michael on Havenhurst
12 days ago

Poor guy, why aren’t they going after the major crooks? Like West Hollywood, City, County, State and Federal politicians. California is the perfect place to start. It’s so corrupt under the current leadership starting with Gov French Laundry and the dreadful Nancy Pelosi.

Last edited 12 days ago by Michael on Havenhurst
Eric Jon Schmidt-Henderson
Eric Jon Schmidt-Henderson
12 days ago

I could have told you that five years ago. This is nothing compared to embezzlement by elected officials, appointed officials, and employees of West Hollywood. This guy is a guppy in the pond of corruption.

TomSmart
TomSmart
12 days ago

I believed him to be shady when I spoke to him when he was working out of the former French Marketplace.

Tip of An Iceberg
Tip of An Iceberg
12 days ago

Tip of one of many suspected icebergs floating around Weho in the Sea of Social Justice causes.

Stevie
Stevie
12 days ago

Horvath and Erickson gave endorsements to this alleged crook. Birds of a feather……

Michael on Havenhurst
Michael on Havenhurst
12 days ago
Reply to  Stevie

How do you think Horvath and Erickson have been living? Off their talents and charms. They should be investigated.

Tip of An Iceberg
Tip of An Iceberg
12 days ago

And they both brag about living in small rent controlled apartments. If Horvath had been as successful as she claimed why would she not be living in a condo or her own house? Doesn’t make a bit of sense. How do these folks allegedly hide their money?

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