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FBI investigates bribery allegations at Department of Building and Safety

Multiple complaints were lodged against an inspector assigned to the Koreatown area who quit after being placed on leave.

February 08, 2012|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

A year later, In was listed in state records as chief executive officer of Grande Vista Associates, a consulting firm that had previously been linked to a scandal at the city's Housing Authority. A Times investigation in 2007 found that Victor Taracena, a construction manager for the authority, steered contracts to politically connected firms, including Grande Vista, without competitive bidding or after rigged contests.

One bidder told The Times that he tapped Gustavo Valdivia, a former aide to Councilman Jose Huizar who was Grande Vista's lead consultant, to help him compete for the work — and found out that Grande Vista had secretly submitted its own lower bid. The housing authority paid Grande Vista nearly $99,000 to prepare schematic drawings of restrooms, parking stalls and ramps and other areas.

A federal grand jury indicted Taracena in May on bribery and conspiracy charges, accusing him of awarding contracts to phony companies created by his brothers and then receiving kickbacks. Grande Vista was not mentioned in the indictment.

Taracena is believed to be in Guatemala and has not entered a plea. Neither Valdivia nor his lawyer would comment.

A spokesman for the housing authority said his agency still does not know if Grande Vista performed the job for which it was paid.

In said he received no income from Grande Vista and got involved with the firm as a volunteer only to learn more about public outreach, one of the services the firm provides. In also said Valdivia asked him to be an officer.

"I'm a very simple person. If I can help people, I will help. It's all a positive thing for me," he said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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