Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Corruption charges nothing new to cities of southeast Los Angeles County

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The tiny cities of southeast Los Angeles County are fairly unremarkable, home to busy freeways and warehouses, but when it comes to stories of political corruption, they're notorious. 

The indictments of state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) and his brother Tom Calderon are just the latest in a string of bribery, money laundering and corruption cases to hit the area bordered by the 110 and 710 freeways to the west and east, and by the 10 and 105 freeways to the north and south. 

Calderon is accused of accepting $100,000 in cash bribes as well as trips on private planes, meals at gourmet restaurants and rounds of golf at high-end resorts. He also used his political position to arrange for jobs for his two children -- jobs his son and daughter essentially did not perform. Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of his Senate district has an annual income of $75,000 or less, according to data provided by Calderon's office. 

RELATED: KPCC's coverage of the FBI investigation of Ron Calderon

Calderon's arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

Calderon’s 30th Senate District includes the areas of Huntington Park, South Gate, Bell, Cudahy and a sliver of Maywood. All of those communities have experienced political corruption cases in the past decade:

  • L.A. County Assessor John Noguez
    • The county assessor is a former Huntington Park mayor and city councilman. He was arrested in October of 2012 for allegedly engaging in a pay-to-play scheme. Prosecutors say Noguez lowered the assessed value of land owned by campaign donors, which in turned lowered the amount of taxes owed. His actions may have cost Los Angeles County more than $10 million in tax revenue, according to the District Attorney's Office. Noguez has pleaded not guilty; his trial is pending.
  • Bell
    • Scandal erupted in 2010 when the Los Angeles Times reported on hugely inflated salaries, illegal taxes and the lending of city money in the tiny city of Bell. Former City Manager Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges. His sentencing is scheduled for March 12. His former deputy Angela Spaccia was found guilty of 11 felonies for her role in the scandal. Her sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday. Five former council members were convicted of misappropriating funds. They're expected to be back in court in April to consider a plea deal on other corruption charges that a jury was unable to reach a verdict on.
  • Cudahy
    • Three former city officials – Osvaldo Conde, David Silva and Angel Perales – pleaded guilty in a federal extortion and bribery case. They admitted to accepting $17,000 in bribes from a FBI informant who purportedly wanted to open a medical marijuana clinic in town. Documents in that case outlined rampant corruption in Cudahy. Conde was sentenced to three years in prison. Silva was given one year in prison. Perales was placed on five years' probation.
  • Vernon
    • The city’s mayor, Leonis Malburg, and his wife Dominica were charged with voter fraud and conspiray in 2006. They were found guilty in 2009; Leonis was given five years' probation and ordered to pay $579,000 in fines and restitution, while Dominica was placed on three years' probation and ordered to pay nearly $40,000.
  • South Gate
    • Over the years, Al Robles served as a South Gate councilman, mayor, treasurer and deputy city manager. He went on to be a member of the Central Basin Municipal Water District. In 2005, he was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. In 2013, a federal appeals court threw out Robles’ convictions on public corruption and money laundering. The bribery counts remained; Robles is scheduled to be released from prison in 2015.
  • Lynwood
    • Two former city councilmen were convicted of misappropriating funds. Prosecutors say they received stipends for sitting on city commissions that didn’t do any work. Louis Byrd was sentenced to five years in state prison while Fernando Pedroza was given four. Politicians also used city-issued credit cards for concerts, golf tickets and sexual favors at a Mexican strip club.
  • Maywood Water Company No. 2
    • The former head of Maywood Water Co. 2 was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2014 for campaign money laundering.  
  • Central Basin Municipal Water District
    • In 2013, the FBI subpoenaed documents from the  Commerce-based water district, allegedly in connection with the Ron Calderon investigation.


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