Politics

South El Monte Mayor Luis Aguiñaga to plead guilty to bribery

South El Monte Mayor Luis Aguiñaga was charged with bribery for accepting money from a contractor doing business with the city and accepting a bribe during an FBI undercover operation.
South El Monte Mayor Luis Aguiñaga was charged with bribery for accepting money from a contractor doing business with the city and accepting a bribe during an FBI undercover operation.
Water Quality Administration

As part of a plea agreement, the mayor of South El Monte has agreed to plead guilty to bribery, according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office. Mayor Luis Aguiñaga was charged with bribery Thursday for accepting money from a contractor doing business with the city and accepting a bribe during an FBI undercover operation.

In the plea agreement filed Thursday, Aguiñaga said that he took bribes from a contractor from 2005 to September 2012. They were initially $500, then rose to $1,000. Aguinaga admitted in his plea to receiving at least $45,000 from the contractor.

"The payments were rewards in connection with the approval of city contracts for the contractor," the release stated.

The contractor is identified in court documents as a confidential witness. The contractor made payments every two to three weeks, according to the release.

"If the contractor failed to pay Aguiñaga within a few days of being paid by the City, Aguiñaga would call and ask for his payment," the release stated.

The contractor left cash in envelopes in a bathroom at South El Monte City Hall or inside the passenger side pocket of a car, according to the plea agreement.

The plea agreement includes a description of a Sept. 12, 2012 meeting that was being monitored by the FBI. The contractor is described as "CW" for "Confidential Witness."

“Defendant was nervous about meeting with CW because Cudahy city officials, including the Mayor, had recently been arrested and charged with accepting bribes. 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.”  

Aguiñaga is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 10. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Read the full plea agreement here:

Plea agreement

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Aguiñaga's plea. While the plea agreement has been filed, he will not be entering his plea until his arraignment on Aug. 10.