21 December 2004 – LAWFUEL – First for law news – Daryl Sweeney, the former mayor of the City of Carson, was sentenced today to 71 months in federal prison for his conviction on a series of federal corruption and money laundering charges related to schemes to collect bribes from trash haulers interested in receiving a lucrative contract to haul municipal waste.
Sweeney, 47, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who called the defendant “nothing more than a petty criminal.” Sweeney received a reduced sentence because of his “substantial assistance” to the government, which included testifying against other corrupt officials.
Sweeney, other elected officials in Carson, “consultants” and insiders at one trash company pleaded guilty in a wide-ranging corruption case involving the solicitation and eventual payment of bribes to secure a trash-hauling contract that was awarded by the Carson City Council. In short, Sweeney orchestrated a scheme in which a majority of the Carson City Council conspired to solicit bribes in exchange for their votes to award the trash-hauling contract.
The bribery schemes surround the trash-hauling contract that the City of Carson awarded to Browning Ferris Industries, Inc. (BFI) in February 2002. In early 2001, Sweeney recruited another member of the City Council to join a conspiracy “to get paid” in relation to the awarding of the contract, one of the biggest and most lucrative awarded by the city.
In July 2003, Sweeney pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit extortion in relation to a scheme to extort money from Waste Management, Inc., one of the bidders on the trash contract. He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay and accept bribes in relation to the BFI scheme. He pleaded guilty to six counts of “honest services” mail fraud for depriving the people of Carson of his honest services. Sweeney also admitted conspiring to launder money and six substantive counts of money laundering.
The investigation into corruption in the City of Carson has yielded convictions against nine other defendants, including former Carson City Councilwoman Raunda Frank, consultant and former Inglewood City Councilman Garland Hardeman and attorney Robert Dennis Pryce Jr. The convictions illustrate a long-running scheme to exploit the awarding of the large contract for trash services in Carson. In early 2001, Hardeman contacted Waste Management to solicit “performance fees” if Carson awarded the contract to Waste Management. Later, Pryce allegedly proposed to Waste Management that it pay $600,000 if the contract was awarded. Waste Management refused to pay any money in relation to the proposals floated by Hardeman and Pryce.
Sweeney, in association with Frank and former Carson City Council Manuel Ontal, used Pryce to solicit a $600,000 bribe from BFI in exchange for the three votes needed on the Carson City Council to award the contract. In late 2001, Pryce informed Ontal that he had secured an agreement from BFI to pay $585,000 if the contract was awarded to BFI.
In January 2002, Sweeney admitted in court, Pryce delivered $10,000 in “up-front” payments from BFI to Sweeney and Ontal, and a $5,000 payment to Frank.
On February 19, 2002, Sweeney, Ontal and Frank voted at a City Council meeting to award the trash-hauling contract to BFI. That contract would have brought BFI approximately $60 million in revenues over the 10-year life on the contract. Following the vote, two BFI officials, who have been successfully prosecuted, arranged for two $15,000 payments that were split among the three councilmembers, the first two of a planned 36 monthly installments.
The contract with BFI was rescinded by the Carson City Council in April 2002, when Ontal joined the two City Councilmembers who were not part of the bribery scheme to overturn the contract in a 3-2 vote. Ontal also cooperated in the government’s investigation.
The investigation into corruption in the City of Carson was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.