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2 former Lynwood officials guilty of illegally boosting salaries

Former Lynwood Councilmen Louis Byrd and Fernando Pedroza are convicted of misappropriating public funds. The case could expand the definition of public corruption.

August 01, 2012|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times

Byrd and Pedroza, 47, showed little emotion as they emptied their pockets of valuables and were led out of the courtroom to be booked into jail, over the objections of their lawyers. Byrd, who faces up to six years in prison, was accused of taking about $330,000. Pedroza was charged with taking more than $160,000 and faces a maximum sentence of five years.

"This is a violation of the public trust, and that is most disturbing to this court," Superior Court Judge John T. Doyle said as he ordered the two men into custody.

Beginning in 1998, The Times began reporting on the City Council members' boost in salary and later detailed their lavish perks.

The two men were criminally charged in 2007 along with three other former council members. Arturo Reyes pleaded guilty to grand theft and testified against his former colleagues. The charges against the others were dismissed after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired in their cases.

The trial brought an end to a drama that had played out over more than a decade. Miguel Figueroa, 57, a Lynwood activist who sued the city years ago after officials would not turn over information about credit card spending and council earnings, said he felt a sense of closure. Figueroa testified against Byrd and Pedroza.

"I really feel sorry for them, but they didn't want to listen" to the residents, he said. "I hope that what happened today, people from many other cities in public office learn about it."

Times staff writer Matt Stevens contributed to this report.

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