Reality TV company LMNO Productions filed a lawsuit today accusing its former accountant of stealing $1.5 million over the course of five years.
The suit claims that Paul Ikegami, who ran a Torrance-based accounting firm, routinely issued unauthorized checks to himself from LMNO’s account. The suit claims that he was able to issue four to eight such checks per month, with values ranging from $21,225 to $91,965. Ikegami allegedly doctored the company’s books to conceal the payments.
The alleged fraud was only uncovered last year, after Ikegami’s conduct became so “erratic” that LMNO decided to fire him, according to the suit. The suit states that when LMNO asked Ikegami to turn over its records, he refused and ultimately sent an email stating that “I’ve concluded that this will only go one of two directions.”
Ikegami allegedly told LMNO that he would return the books in exchange for $800,000 and a release of wrongdoing. If LMNO did not pay, he allegedly threatened to go to its biggest customer — Discovery Communications — with allegations of financial impropriety. LMNO did not pay, and later was able to recover approximately one million documents scattered in several large cardboard boxes.
LMNO is now reeling from the scandal. Two weeks ago, Discovery Communications terminated the contracts for six of its shows, including “The Little Couple,” citing irregularities after a review. LMNO filed suit against Discovery, accusing it of taking advantage of the situation to steal its show. The FBI confirmed that it executed search warrants at LMNO today.
LMNO had a long-standing relationship with Ikegami’s father, Ben Ikegami, who first began working for the company in 1995. The son, Paul, took primary responsibility for the account in 2008. According to the lawsuit, he began writing fraudulent checks to himself in April 2010. Ben Ikegami died in 2012 and Paul Ikegami took over the family business.
The lawsuit, filed today, was first reported by Deadline. Ikegami did not respond to a message seeking comment.