An Eagle Rock resident who worked as an inspector for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety was sentenced this afternoon to 18 months in federal prison for taking thousands of dollars in bribes.
Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, was sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty on May 23 to a federal bribery charge, admitting that he took thousands of dollars in bribes to approve function carried out at residential construction websites in South Los Angeles, even though he had not inspected the work and, in some instances, had never been to the job website. Gonzalez accepted $9,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent and a confidential informant operating in the direction of the FBI, and this afternoon Judge Snyder ordered Gonzalez to pay $9,000 in restitution to the FBI.
“This an example of how corruption threatens essential government services and why such corruption is intolerable,” stated United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Government employees at each and every level must know that if they betray the public trust for private financial gain, as Mr. Gonzalez did, then they will be held accountable for their conduct.”
According to court documents, in the summer of 2010, the FBI began an undercover investigation after an informant reported that City of Los Angeles Department of Creating and Safety inspectors took money bribes in exchange for necessary permit approvals on residential construction projects. The informant, who’s described in court documents as a work site supervisor for a residential property developer, reported that building inspectors, which includes Gonzalez, accepted bribe payments in the initial inspection stage of construction at residential properties and that the bribes covered all essential construction inspections related to that property, as much as and which includes final inspection.
In a plea agreement filed in United States District Court, Gonzalez admitted that he took the $9,000 bribe payments in exchange for signing inspection forms for 4 houses, even though he had not performed any of the inspections and had by no means even set foot on one of the properties.
“City officials who accept bribes in exchange for compromising their positions erode the integrity of public workplace and produce an atmosphere of mistrust amongst the residents they purport to serve,” stated Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The FBI is entrusted by American citizens to investigate allegations of corruption at all levels of public office, and also the sentences imposed in this investigation are proof of our commitment to that responsibility.”
A second defendant who worked as a creating inspector for the City of Los Angeles pleaded guilty to accepting bribes after being charged in the undercover investigation. Raoul Germain, 60, of Altadena, was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment by Judge Snyder on November 19.
I cannot remember but I belive in this case the bail bonds had been around $25,000.
The instances against Germain and Gonzalez are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Anybody with information about building inspectors or other officials accepting bribes in Los Angeles is urged to contact the FBI by calling its local Field Office at (310) 477-6565, or by sending an e-mail to REPORTBRIBES@ic.fbi.gov.