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Former Mayor Gets Prison

November 23, 2004|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Former Carson Mayor Pete Fajardo was sentenced Monday to 15 months in federal prison for extortion, in a case stemming from a wide-ranging public corruption investigation in that city.

Fajardo, 62, had pleaded guilty to soliciting $120,000 in bribes.

In a plea agreement, he admitted demanding $50,000 from the owner of a low-income senior citizens housing complex in return for backing an $850,000 city grant that would have lowered the owner's mortgage. After the bribe was paid over three months, Fajardo asked the City Council to approve the grant and voted in favor of it.

Also in the plea agreement, he admitted seeking a $70,000 bribe from an engineering company that wanted a contract to build a bridge over a freeway in Carson. That bribe was not paid.

"We believe a strong message has been sent that ... corrupt officials should think twice before lining their own pockets at the expense of taxpayers," said federal prosecutor Thomas S. McConville of the sentencing by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter in Los Angeles.

Fajardo was elected to the City Council in 1992 and began a four-year term as mayor in 1997. He left the council in 2001.

His attorney, Manny Ibay, could not be reached late Monday for comment.

The former mayor is one of 10 people charged in an investigation by the FBI and the IRS into corruption allegations that first surfaced about four years ago in the city's handling of a waste-hauling contract.

That led to inquiries into other contracts, including one for transit services. Another former Carson mayor, Daryl W. Sweeney, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from waste haulers competing for a $60-million city contract. He is to be sentenced Dec. 20.

Former City Council member Raunda Frank pleaded guilty to extortion in the waste-hauling scheme and was sentenced earlier this year to five years of probation.

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