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Robles Pleads Not Guilty to Charges

The former South Gate treasurer is accused of conspiring to violate election laws and misuse public funds.

September 04, 2003|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Former South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he conspired to violate election laws and misuse public funds.

Robles, who appeared with a deputy public defender in the downtown Los Angeles criminal courts building, was indicted by a grand jury in July on charges of conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds and unauthorized use of a signature in a campaign advertisement. He faces a possible sentence of seven years in state prison if convicted.

The indictment accuses him of conspiring to print and mail false campaign fliers and to use city money to pay for them during a failed effort to fight off a voter recall drive. He also allegedly forged the signature of former South Gate Police Chief Rick Lopez on an anti-recall flier. Robles was voted out of office earlier this year in a recall election.

During the brief court hearing Wednesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Colannino questioned whether Robles qualified for a public defender, citing his recent 10-day trip to Fiji. Colannino said taxpayers have already spent about $1 million to defend Robles against charges that he had threatened to kill rival politicians. Those charges were later dismissed.

A taxpayer-funded lawyer was appointed for Robles after he declared that he could not afford to hire a private attorney.

Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green instructed the public defender to double-check the defendant's financial situation and warned Robles that he could receive a hefty bill from the county if he was capable of paying for legal representation. Green said that if Robles did have the means to hire an attorney, "it would seem to be unfair for the taxpayers to pay for public defense."

Robles has earned about $130,000 in the last year and lives in a townhouse that he bought through South Gate's first-time home buyer assistance program.

Two alleged co-conspirators, Angel Gonzalez and Ricardo Hernandez, also pleaded not guilty Wednesday. All three are due back in court Sept. 23.

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