SOUTH EL MONTE >> South El Monte Mayor Luis Aguinaga agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery charge Thursday after being charged with regularly collecting cash payments from a city contractor over the course of seven years, officials said.
In his plea agreement, the mayor admitted to taking bribes every two to three weeks from a contractor who conducted business with the city, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“The payments were rewards in connection with the approval of city contracts for the contractor,” Mrozek said.
The bribes, which were initially $500 at a time but later increased to $1,000, were paid between 2005 and September of 2012, prosecutors allege. Under the plea agreement, Aguinaga admitted taking at least $45,000 in bribes.
“This long-running corruption scheme compromised the effective governance of South El Monte,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “Corruption like Mr. Aguinaga’s is a threat to government institutions and undermines the public’s trust in all government officials. The residents of South El Monte deserve better.”
The contractor, identified in court documents as a “confidential witness,” left the bribe money for Aguinaga by placing cash in envelopes dropped in a bathroom at South El monte City Hall, or left inside the passenger-side pocket of a car, Mrozek said.
One meeting between Aguinaga and the confidential informant was monitored by undercover FBI agents, he said.
“Defendant was nervous about meeting with CW because Cudahy city officials, including the mayor, had recently been arrested and charged with accepting bribes,” according to the plea agreement. “While defendant was speaking with CW, defendant showed CW his cell phone on which he had written ‘don’t talk’ or ‘don’t saying anything,’ and defendant asked CW several times to accompany him to the bathroom. Once they went to the bathroom, CW left an envelope with $2,000 cash on the counter near the sink. Defendant took the envelope containing the money and kept at least $1,000 for himself.”
In some cases, such as the FBI-monitored meeting, Aguinaga took some of the money to give to another “City public official” who was not identified in court documents.
“Mr. Aguinaga abdicated his civic duty when he made decisions for the city based on bribes he demanded, instead of for the good of the people he was elected to serve. The FBI will not tolerate corruption by city officials, nor should the residents of South El Monte,” according to Deirdre Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Aug. 10 for an arraignment hearing, officials said.
A conviction for bribery carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
LOS ANGELES >> A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, who also ran an immigration consulting service, received a sentence of more than three years in federal prison late Thursday for his role in immigration bribery scheme, officials said.
George Wu, 63, was convicted in August of conspiracy to bribe a public officials and five counts of bribing a public official following a week-long trial.
At his sentencing Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald handed down a sentence of 37 months behind bars, U.S. DOJ spokeswoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
He faced a maximum penalty of up to 80 years in prison.
“This defendant attempted to corrupt our nation’s immigration system by offering bribes in exchange for benefits. It is critical to our national security that our nation’s immigration system functions properly and free from corruption such as this defendant’s,” Central District of California U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said.
Wu worked as a CBP officer until 2012, then started an immigration consulting business called Great Eastern immigration Services, authorities said.
Wu and co-defendants paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, which they solicited from at least seven clients, to immigration officials top help secure citizenship and permanent legal status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mrozek said.
In one case, a client of Wu’s, “was allowed to pass an English proficiency exam even though she could not speak English,” he said.
Co-conspirator Michael Bui, who ran another immigration consultation firm, has already been convicted of conspiracy and bribery in connection with the case and sentenced to one year and one day in prison, officials said.
Eleven defendants in all are named in the case, and seven of them have already been convicted, Mrozek said. They include an attorney who paid bribes to a senior USCIS officials and arranging “sham marriages”; an ex U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who lied to federal investigators about accessing immigration filed and providing the information to an immigration attorney; and a former USCIS officials who accepted an “illegal gratuity” from an immigration attorney after helping an immigrant gain legal permanent residence, officials said.
This from the Southwest Riverside News Network, but perhaps relevant locally:
Former Mt. San Jacinto College police Chief Kevin Harold Segawa is slated to be sentenced today to a year in jail for bribery and other felonies tied to towing scams he perpetrated at the campus.
Segawa, 39, entered a plea deal in June, on the day of his preliminary hearing.
The defendant was charged last December with bribery, destruction of evidence by a public official, and two counts each of perjury, submitting falsified documents and embezzlement — all felonies — as well as misdemeanor counts of concealing evidence and modifying a written notice to appear.
The ex-cop pleaded guilty to all charges, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez indicated he would consider a 365-day jail sentence for Segawa, as well as several years’ probation, instead of prison.
Prosecutors alleged that between 2005 and 2008, Segawa sent 85 percent of the campus’s towing business to Pirot’s Towing, whose 40-year-old owner, Morgan Allen McComas, is charged with bribery and misappropriation of funds.
This from the U.S. Department of Justice:
The chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians surrendered this afternoon to federal agents after being indicted on federal charges of accepting a quarter million dollars in bribes from tribal vendors and concealing income from the IRS.
Robert Salgado Sr., 67, was arrested by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he arrived at United States District Court in Riverside early this afternoon. Salgado agreed to surrender after being informed this morning that he had been charged in a 36-count indictment returned last week by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. Salgado is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in Riverside federal court.
The indictment charges Salgado with conspiring to solicit and accept tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from four vendors in exchange for them obtaining contracts with the tribe or being allowed to keep existing contracts. According to the indictment, the four vendors paid bribes to Salgado in the form of cash, payments made to his creditors and checks payable to a company that Salgado had established.
One of the vendors, Abbas Shilleh, the owner of California Parking Services, Inc., which provides valet parking at the Soboba Casino, is named in two of the bribery counts in the indictment. Shilleh, 46, of Diamond Bar, today agreed to surrender to authorities on Monday morning.
As the elected chairman of the Tribal Council of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, Salgado exercised substantial influence over the business dealings of the tribe, and he had the authority to sign contracts on behalf of the Soboba Band. The indictment alleges that the four vendors who paid bribes were involved in real estate purchases made by the tribe, had construction projects at the Soboba Casino and on the reservation, and provided services at the casino. The indictment includes 29 counts of bribery that outline payments totaling just over $250,000.
Here’s a copy of the indictment :
Here’s the Temple City grand jury transcripts Part 1 (5.1 MB) and
Part 2 (5.1 MB).
They are lengthy and detailed, but a great insight into just how sleazy local politics can become when a $75 million development is at stake.
Not only do witness tell of bribery, greed, money laundering and back rooms deals, there’s also talk of voodoo rituals performed by former mayor Judy Wong.
Read ’em and enjoy!
If politics disgusts you, read no further.
If you are interested in how a corrupt government really works, here’s an instructive timeline put together by Alfred Lee and based on a grand jury probe of shenanigans in Temple City.
We’ve put together a special section detailing what those reports entail, it’s here
At right — former Mayor –still councilwoman Judy Wong..
As for the timeline… which includes allegations of bribery, perjury, money laundering and drug dealing, it’s on the jump …
The mayor, a former mayor and a campaign fixer/suspected bagman who hoped to be on the council face some serious felony bribery/perjury charges after finally appearing in court Wednesday.
If you believe what the DA alleges, small-time greed drove these political hacks to basically extort a developer who may have been in over his head in the first place.
The truth of the matter is Temple City is probably not only local government corrupted by the easy cash that flows from developer’s pockets. It’s just that most developers aren’t carrying around a pocket wire to record the transaction and burn the council. Here’s an excerpt from our story on Boss Wilson and her crew:
LOS ANGELES – Temple City’s mayor, its former mayor and a former City Council candidate were indicted Wednesday on felony charges of bribery, perjury and other counts related to a nine-month corruption probe into their dealings with a local developer.
The 21-count indictment was returned Monday by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and unsealed Wednesday by Judge Patricia Schnegg at the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles.
Temple City Mayor Judy Wong was charged with six counts of bribery, three counts of perjury and one count of solicitation of bribery. Former mayor Cath Wilson was charged with three counts of bribery and three counts of perjury.
Former City Council candidate Scott Carwile, who was also once Wilson’s campaign treasurer, was charged with four counts of perjury and one misdemeanor count of failing to report a campaign contribution.
“It’s actually quite rare that we bring bribery charges, because of the nature of the crime,” said Deputy District Attorney David Demerjian, who heads the DA’s Public Integrity Division. “Normally, neither side involved in the bribery will report it to us. It’s usually beneficial to them to just continue on with the conspiracy.”
Bail was set at $250,000 for Wong, $150,000 for Wilson and $100,000 for Carwile. All three posted bail, were booked, and were ordered to return July 9 for a pre-trial hearing.