LOS ANGELES – The former mayor and the one-time city manager of the corruption-riddled city of Cudahy have agreed to plead guilty to bribery and extortion charges for supporting the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary, authorities said.
Ex-Mayor David Silva, 61, and former City Manager Angel Perales, 43, will each plead guilty to one count of bribery and extortion, according to plea agreements filed Thursday. They each face up to 30 years in prison.
In exchange for their pleas, Silva and Perales won't face additional charges as long as they copped to them. In court filings, prosecutors said both men accepted cash bribes from a developer and Perales helped discard absentee ballots in two elections that supported candidates who challenged incumbents.
The case is the latest in a series of corruption scandals plaguing small cities south of Los Angeles. Most notable were the 2010 arrests of the former city manager and several other officials from neighboring Bell, who are accused of misappropriating funds to overpay themselves.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said an investigation is ongoing. He wouldn't comment if others will face charges.
Silva, Perales and Councilman Osvaldo Conde were arrested last month as part of an investigation into an alleged plan to approve a pot collective. The three men solicited and accepted $17,000 after several meetings with a dispensary owner who was working as an FBI informant.
The informant estimated the dispensary could generate up to $2.5 million within a year.
"I have your vote, right?" the informant asked Silva in recorded conversations earlier this year, court documents show.
"Yes," Silva said.
Perales suggested the shakedown of the prospective pot clinic owner wasn't the first time Conde and Silva looked to receive bribes.
"These guys are not your typical, uh, council people," Perales tells the informant, according to an affidavit. "They've dealt with, uh, you know, people that throw money down."
Among them was a Cudahy business owner who often plied Silva and other city officials with alcohol, authorities said.
The businessman promised to pay Silva and Conde $50,000 each if they voted in favor of selling city-owned property to him, according to court documents. The City Council approved the sale earlier this year, but it was unclear if Conde and Silva received the money.
In another instance, a separate developer gave Perales money that was later split between Conde and Silva, authorities said.
An email message left for Silva's attorney, James Bisnow, was not immediately returned.
Prosecutors said Perales, who also ran the city's code enforcement division, and other city officials diverted absentee ballots in the 2007 and 2009 elections and opened them before they reached the City Clerk.
"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," according to court documents.
Attorney Carlos Juarez, who represents Perales, said his client decided to take responsibilities for his actions.
"He's extremely remorseful," Juarez said. "He wants to put everything he did behind him."
Silva, Perales and Conde are expected to return to court July 19.