1:46pm PT by Ashley Cullins
'The Little Couple' Producer Sues Ex-Accountant for Embezzlement
Producers of The Little Couple are suing their ex-accountant, claiming he embezzled $1.5 million and extorted them in an attempt to cover it up, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Reality producer LMNO Cable Group sued Paul Ikegami for a laundry list of claims including fraud and conversion on Thursday — the same day the FBI raided LMNO's offices.
An FBI spokeswoman tells The Hollywood Reporter the bureau executed a federal search warrant "to seize evidence in an ongoing investigation" and said the warrant was sealed by a judge and that she is prohibited from commenting on the nature of the investigation. She also noted that no arrests were made.
"Ikegami used his control over LMNO's payment system and accounting system to embezzle funds, and further used his control over LMNO's books and records to falsify entries to hide his embezzlement," states the complaint. "Ikegami tried to hide his theft by withholding LMNO's records, attempting to extort LMNO for more than $800,000, and — when his demand was not met — sought to destroy LMNO by dumping its physical records into dumpsters, and then telling lies to LMNO's largest customer about the financial records."
This comes on the heels of a lawsuit the producers filed against Discovery Communications, claiming the network used the financial vulnerability as an opportunity to steal the show.
LMNO hired Ben Ikegami, the defendants' father, in 1995. Paul Ikegami began taking on more responsibility for LMNO's account in 2008 and took over the company when his father died in 2012.
"LMNO is only now beginning to piece together the full extent of Ikegami's fraud and embezzlement," states the complaint. Virtually everything about Ikegami turns out to be fraudulent — down to the basic and original lie that he was even a CPA. LMNO has discovered more than $1,500,000 in unauthorized payments that Ikegami made to himself through a variety of schemes."
Those schemes included issuing four to eight unauthorized checks to himself each month, totaling more than $1.5 million over five years, and another $250,000 in credit-card transactions paid to Ikegami & Co. To cover it up, he doctored the company's books.
In the summer of 2015, LMNO became concerned about Ikegami's erratic behavior and decided to hire another accountant. The company claims he responded by demanding a payoff of $800,000 in exchange for returning the books. They didn't comply and claim Ikegami dumped one million pages of documents mixed together in several dumpsters in an effort to prevent LMNO from recreating its files.
LMNO is seeking actual damages in excess of $8 million, plus punitive damages and restitution.