A grand jury has handed down a 24-count felony indictment against Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca, accusing them of perjury and voter fraud stemming from their assertion in that they lived in a home in Panorama City.
In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury said Alarcon and his wife falsely claimed that they lived in a house within Alarcon's 7th Council District in the San Fernando Valley.
Alarcon and his wife both pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. The case marks the first time that a sitting Los Angeles city councilman has been charged with a crime since 1997, when then-Councilman Mike Hernandez was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession. Hernandez pleaded guilty and entered a rehabilitation program.
Prosecutors said they launched the Alarcon investigation 15 months ago after receiving a written complaint that the councilman was living outside his district, which takes in such neighborhoods as Sylmar and Pacoima. In January, investigators searched two homes owned by Montes de Oca, 45, including a house in Sun Valley that is outside Alarcon's council district.
That house is in a district represented by Councilman Paul Krekorian.
Alarcon, 56, said in a prepared statement he would fight the charges and not let the case serve as a distraction. He predicted that he and his wife would be acquitted. "It is critical that everyone understands that the charges filed against me and my wife today relate to where we live, not to the work that I do as an elected council member," he said. "I have not been accused of any wrongdoing in office and there has never been a moment when I did not work my hardest to represent my community, to meet its needs and to solve its problems."
Alarcon faces two felony counts of filing a false declaration of candidacy, once in 2006 and again in 2008. He also faces seven counts of voter fraud, stemming from elections he voted in between 2007 and 2009, and nine counts of perjury -- including three for allegedly filing false driver's license applications.
Montes de Oca, who married Alarcon in 2007, has been charged with three counts of perjury and three counts of voter fraud.
Only hours before he and his wife entered their pleas, Alarcon was attending the council's regularly scheduled Wednesday meeting, delivering handwritten notes to his colleagues asking them not to judge him prematurely.