FBI ARRESTS TWO L.A. CITY BUILDING INSPECTORS ON FEDERAL CHARGES OF TAKING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN BRIBES
Inspectors Accused of ‘Signing Off’ on Documents without Conducting Inspections
LOS ANGELES – Two inspectors with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety were arrested this morning on federal bribery charges for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes to approve work done at residential construction sites in South Los Angeles, even though they had not inspected the work and, in some case, had never been to the job site.
Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation this morning arrested the two men who were charged in criminal complaints filed yesterday. The defendants taken into custody are:
Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock, who allegedly accepted $9,000 in bribes from an informant and an undercover agent; and
Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena, who allegedly accepted $6,000 in bribes from the undercover agent.
Both men are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court.
“Corruption by any official further corrodes public confidence,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “In this case, two government employees directly threatened an important public safety mission by exploiting their positions to line their own pockets.”
Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated:
"Allegations of corruption breech the public trust on many levels and evidence in this case highlights the ease with which the defendants accepted bribes, while abdicating the duties honest taxpayers entrusted them to carry out on their behalf. Today’s arrests should be a warning to others looking to line their pockets through illicit transactions at the expense of the city and its residents.”
According to the criminal complaints, last summer, the FBI began an undercover investigation of the inspectors after an informant reported that City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety inspectors took cash bribes in exchange for necessary permit approvals on residential construction projects. The informant, who is described in court documents as a work site supervisor for a residential property developer, reported that building inspectors, including Gonzalez and Germain, accepted bribe payments at the initial inspection stage of construction at residential properties and that the bribes covered all necessary construction inspections related to that property, up to and including final inspection.
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint in Gonzalez’s case describes how the informant, and then an undercover agent posing as a residential construction contractor, gave cash bribes to Gonzalez beginning last summer. During a meeting in late August, in which the first documented bribe was made, Gonzalez signed inspection cards for two properties and told the informant the he was giving the informant “preferential treatment.”
According to court documents filed in the second case today, Germain allegedly said in a recorded conversation with the undercover agent: “I drive by every once in a while, take a look, I won't even stop and get off.” The affidavit in Germain’s case describes four $1,500 bribe payments that resulted in Germain signing inspection forms for four houses, even though he never set foot on two of the properties.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The charge of bribery carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The cases against Gonzalez and Germain are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI urges anyone with information about building inspectors or other officials accepting bribes in Los Angeles to contact the FBI by calling its local Field Office at (310) 477-6565, or by sending an e-mail to this dedicated anti-corruption address: REPORTBRIBES@ic.fbi.gov.
Release No. 11-054
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