October 3rd 2011
LOS ANGELES – 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 work done at residential construction sites in South Los Angeles, even though he had not inspected the work and, in some cases, had never been to the job site. Gonzalez accepted $9,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent and a confidential informant working at 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 important government services and why such corruption is intolerable,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Government employees at every level must know that if they betray the public trust for personal 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 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, 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.
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 four houses, even though he had not performed any of the inspections and had never even set foot on one of the properties.
“City officials who accept bribes in exchange for compromising their positions erode the integrity of public office and create an atmosphere of mistrust among the residents they purport to serve,” said 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 the sentences imposed in this investigation are proof of our commitment to that responsibility.”
A second defendant who worked as a building 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.
The cases against Germain and Gonzalez are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Anyone 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.
CONTACT: Thom Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer