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SECOND L.A. CITY BUILDING INSPECTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO FEDERAL BRIBERY CHARGE FOR TAKING THOUSANDS IN CASH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES – A second man who was employed as an inspector with the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety pleaded guilty this afternoon to federal bribery charges for taking thousands of dollars in bribes to approve work done at residential construction sites in South Los Angeles, even though the work had not been inspected.

Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery, admitting that he corruptly took $9,000 in bribes from an informant and an undercover FBI agent.

Another former inspector charged in the investigation – Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena – pleaded guilty to one count of bribery on May 5. When he pleaded guilty, Germain admitted accepting $6,000 in bribes from the undercover agent.

The FBI began investigating corruption in the Department of Building and Safety last summer after an informant reported that inspectors took cash bribes in exchange for permit approvals on residential construction projects. According to court documents, the informant 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.

Documents filed in the case against Gonzalez describe 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 documents in Germain’s case, he took four $1,500 bribe payments and signed inspection forms for four houses, even though he never set foot on two of the properties.

Both Gonzalez and Germain were terminated by the City of Los Angeles after charges were filed.

The charge of bribery carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder on August 1.

Germain is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Snyder on September 19.

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.

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Release No. 11-075

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