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Another L.A. building inspector to plead guilty to taking bribes

In exchange for the money, Hugo Joel Gonzalez signed off on permits for multiple properties in South Los Angeles that he had not inspected, court papers say.

May 21, 2011|By Abby Sewell and David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

A second Los Angeles city building inspector has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he solicited and accepted thousands of dollars in bribes for signing off on permits for properties he had never inspected.

Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock signed a plea agreement Friday in which he admitted taking $9,000 in bribes last year from an FBI informant who worked for a major residential developer and an undercover agent posing as a contractor.

In exchange for the money, Gonzalez signed off on permits for multiple properties in South Los Angeles that he had not inspected, according to court documents. At one of those properties, Gonzalez said he would need $2,000 for himself plus a $500 "tribute" for the inspector normally responsible for that address, documents filed by the FBI state.

Gonzalez was arrested last month along with a second inspector, Raoul Germain, 60, of Altadena. Germain pleaded guilty May 5 to the same charge. Both inspectors have been fired.

Since those arrests, at least two more inspectors have been placed on leave by the Department of Building and Safety, which has received three subpoenas from a federal grand jury, including one seeking personnel records for at least 11 current and former employees.

Gonzalez has remained in custody since his arrest. A judge deemed him to be a flight risk because he owns property in Mexico and had previously said he could flee there.

In one exchange with the FBI informant, according to an FBI affidavit, Gonzalez said he was in Colima, Mexico, and would need money wired into his bank account.

In another recorded exchange, Gonzalez complained about an employee of a real estate developer, saying he wanted to kill her and flee to Mexico.

When the undercover agent told Gonzalez he couldn't do that, Gonzalez responded by saying that law enforcement would never find him.

"I'm telling you, man, I would ... kill her if I was in, like, my five minutes of craziness," the affidavit quotes Gonzalez as saying.

The maximum sentence for the federal charge of accepting bribes is 10 years in prison, but in exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors will recommend a lower sentence.

Gonzalez's attorney could not be reached for comment.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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