LA Councilman Richard Alarcon pleads in perjury, voter fraud case

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon speaks at a news conference announcing his indictment for voter fraud, August 4, 2010.
Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon speaks at a news conference announcing his indictment for voter fraud, August 4, 2010.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon pleaded not guilty today to 18 criminal counts, including perjury and voter fraud, alleging that he lived outside the district he represents and lied on candidacy statements and driver's license applications.

Alarcon's wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, pleaded not guilty to six similar charges. The charges were included in a 24-count indictment returned late Friday and unsealed today.

The pair are due back in court Sept. 27. Deputy District Attorney requested that bail be set at $45,000 for Alarcon and $25,000 for his wife, but the couple were allowed to remain free on their own recognizance.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Lentz Snyder said the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division began an investigation of Alarcon after receiving a written complaint that the councilman was living at a residence outside his district.

The indictment charges Alarcon, 56, with:

-- two counts of filing false declarations of candidacy on Dec. 6, 2006, and Nov. 6, 2008;

-- seven counts of voter fraud, for allegedly fraudulently voting in elections in 2007, 2008 and 2009; and

-- nine counts of perjury, including three for allegedly filing false driver's license applications.

His wife was charged with six counts, including:

-- three counts of perjury, for allegedly claiming she lived at a Panorama City home within Alarcon's 7th District on a provisional voting ballot, in registering to vote and on a drivers license application; and

-- three counts of voter fraud, for allegedly fraudulently voting in an election in 2008 and two in 2009.

Prosecutors presented their case to a grand jury in July, and 31 witnesses were called to testify, according to the District Attorney's Office. Alarcon was expected to respond to the charges this afternoon.

He sent notes to his City Council colleagues today informing him that the charges were imminent.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said it was ``just a note telling us what was going on and that he wanted us to know that he was innocent and that he would fight whatever he needs to fight if there's something to fight.''

In January, the District Attorney's Office served warrants at two homes owned by Alarcon's wife -- one in Panorama City within his 7th District, and another in Sun Valley, which is in the 2nd District represented by Paul Kerkorian.

Alarcon has previously denied any wrongdoing.

``On Tuesday, I was served with a search warrant by the D.A.'s office regarding a complaint about my residency,'' he said in the statement in January. ``I am absolutely confident that when all the facts come out, there will be no doubt that I live in the 7th Council District.

``In the meantime, I am cooperating fully with the D.A. and my focus continues to be on serving the people of the 7th Council District and working on projects that are important to our community.''

Alarcon conceded in January that he had not spent any time at the Panorama City home since October, when a transient broke into his home. Alarcon said the man must have spent 24 to 48 hours alone in the house, during which he defecated in the bathtub, took down all the pictures on the walls, tampered with the doorknobs, emptied out the closets and tossed clothes into the street where homeless people rifled through them.

``There were some very strange things,'' Alarcon said. ``He had knives spread throughout the house -- it was a little scary.''

The man also took a wallet -- one marked with the seal of the state Senate where Alarcon served for eight years -- and put his own driver's license inside, according to the councilman. Alarcon said the intruder barricaded himself inside the house, but police broke down the back doors to arrest him.

The councilman said the same man returned to the house and broke in again in March. Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she appreciated receiving the note from Alarcon.

``We all, I believe, received a handwritten note from council member Alarcon, pretty much wanting to make sure we had seen his statement regarding the D.A.'s action and wanted us to know that he was going to fight it, and that he wanted us all to keep an open mind and not prejudge him or his wife as they go through this situation,'' Hahn said. ``I can't speak to where council member Alarcon lives, but I can say that I sit very close to him on the City Council and I watch him, day after day after day, stand up and fight on behalf of Los Angeles, on behalf of his residents, and really on behalf of a lot of people in this city that don't typically have a voice. That's what I can say about him,'' she said.

After Alarcon was elected in 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that he asked then-2nd District Councilwoman Wendy Greuel to support an attempt to redraw boundaries so that his wife's Sun Valley home could become part of the 7th District. Greuel refused and Alarcon withdrew his proposal after the news broke.