Officials Admit Taking Bribes from Person Who Wanted to Open Marijuana Store
LOS ANGELES—The former mayor of the city of Cudahy and the former head of the city’s Code Enforcement Division agreed today to plead guilty to federal extortion and bribery charges for taking cash bribes in exchange for supporting the opening of a “medical marijuana” store in the city.
In two plea agreements filed today in United States District Court, former mayor David Silva and former Acting City Manager Angel Perales each admit taking $5,000 in cash after demanding bribes in exchange for supporting the opening of a medical marijuana store in the city.
An FBI informant who paid the bribes talked to Silva two days after making the payments and asked Silva, “I have your vote, right?” to which Silva responded, “Yes,” according to Silva’s plea agreement.
A third person charged in this corruption case—Cudahy City Councilmember Osvaldo Conde—faces bribery charges alleged in a criminal complaint filed last month (see http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/082.html).
Silva, Perales, and Conde all allegedly accepted payments from an FBI informant during meetings on February 28. A 143-page affidavit filed last month details an investigation in which federal law enforcement agents recorded a number of conversations between the informant and the Cudahy officials. During those conversations, the city officials explained that the Cudahy City Council planned to approve only one or two permits for marijuana stores in Cudahy. According to the affidavit, Perales brokered an arrangement between the informant and city officials in which the informant would make cash payments in exchange for the officials supporting a request for one of the permits.
In addition to admitting that they accepted the cash bribes from the potential operator of the marijuana store, in their plea agreements Silva and Perales admit to engaging in other corrupt behavior.
Silva, 61, who served on the Cudahy City Council for more than 20 years and who was the mayor of Cudahy until he submitted his resignation on July 3, admits in the factual statement in his plea agreement to taking bribes from several individuals, including a developer with an interest in real properties in the city of Cudahy. Silva agreed to accept a $50,000 payment from a developer who wanted to purchase land that the city owned in a deal to discount the price of the property by $800,000.
In his plea agreement, Perales, 43, who ran the Code Enforcement Division of the Cudahy Community Services Department, admits being a bag man for city officials who took bribes, including Silva and Conde. The Perales plea agreement also discusses election fraud during the 2007 municipal election when absentee ballot were diverted before reaching the City Clerk. Perales “and other city officials routinely and systematically opened the absentee ballots cast in the 2007 City Council election by mail,” according to the statement of facts in Perales’ plea agreement. “Ballots cast in favor of the incumbent candidates were resealed and returned to the mail to be counted. Ballots for non-incumbent candidates were discarded.” Perales and other city officials did the same thing during the 2009 Cudahy City Council election, according to the court document.
Silva, Perales, and Conde are scheduled to be arraigned on July 19 at 1:00 p.m. in United States District Court. At that time, a United States District Judge will be assigned to hear the cases and will schedule hearings for Silva and Perales to formally enter their guilty pleas. Conde has waived his right to a preliminary hearing, which had been scheduled for tomorrow. Prosecutors will file additional documents in the case against Conde by the time of his arraignment.
Once they plead guilty to the two charges against them, Silva and Perales will each face a total statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and a fine of $500,000. Both men will be also required to repay the money they received in bribes from the FBI informant.
Conde, 50, a member of the Cudahy City Council who allegedly accepted two separate bribe payments from the FBI informatnt that totaled $7,000, currently faces one count of bribery, which carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.