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Ex-Colton Councilman Pleads Guilty

January 15, 2002|DOUGLAS HABERMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Former Colton Councilman James Bruce Grimsby has pleaded guilty to federal bribery and money laundering charges in a major corruption probe in San Bernardino County, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

A federal grand jury indicted Grimsby in August on 14 counts of bribery and seven of money laundering. Seven other men, including county Supervisor Jerry Eaves, also were indicted. The investigation looked at four alleged bribery schemes involving Colton council members or a former mayor.

On Dec. 20, Grimsby secretly pleaded guilty to four counts of bribery and one of money laundering, Assistant U.S. Atty. Edward Moreton said. Moreton wouldn't say why prosecutors had not disclosed the plea agreement earlier.

The indictment alleged that Grimsby took more than $25,000 in bribes from Allan Steward of Laguna Beach, a commercial real estate broker and developer. In return, it alleges, Grimsby voted in favor of three restaurants Steward wanted to develop and a land deal to benefit Steward.

The money laundering charges stemmed from the way some of the money was "dressed up as payments" to Grimsby's former wife and his wife at the time, Moreton said.

The maximum Grimsby faces at his March 25 sentencing is 30 years in federal prison, but the sentence will be much lighter, Moreton said. The plea agreement is under seal, and Moreton said he cannot discuss its terms.

Of the eight criminal defendants, only Eaves and businessman William Shepardson McCook of Newport Beach are fighting the charges. Both have pleaded innocent.

The others who have reached plea agreements are businessman Michael Berg of Colton; former Colton Councilman Abe Beltran; Councilman Donald Sanders, who subsequently resigned his seat; former Colton Mayor Karl Gaytan; and Steward.

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