Former Cudahy official Angel Perales received probation instead of a prison… (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)
A former official in the southeast Los Angeles County city of Cudahy was sentenced to five years probation Monday — far less than the prison term prosecutors recommended — for his part in taking $17,000 in bribes from a man who wanted to open a medical marijuana dispensary.
The federal court hearing for Angel Perales and documents filed in his case and that of former Mayor David Silva, also charged in the bribery case, added new details about the continuing federal investigation into widespread corruption in the working-class town.
Documents previously released revealed Cudahy as a place where bribes — sometimes passed along in a shoe box — were routine, city elections were fixed on orders from long-time City Manager George Perez, city workers served as armed bodyguards for council members and Perez sent city workers to bring him illegal pain pills.
Carlos Juarez, Perales' attorney, told Judge Manuel Real that the former city manager was "the mastermind behind the bribery scandal in Cudahy."
Perez's attorney, Stanley L. Friedman, has said his client denies any wrongdoing. Perez was fired without explanation in 2011, and is suing the city for $400,000 in back pay.
Juarez revealed that his client had been cooperating with the FBI since May 22, about a month before Perales, Silva and former Councilman Osvaldo Conde were arrested on bribery and extortion charges. His assistance in the federal investigation included wearing a recorder to tape conversations with city officials and recording phone calls, the attorney said.
Perales said in an interview that he had testified before a federal grand jury that is investigating wrongdoing in the city.
"Mr. Perales substantially assisted the government in its investigation," Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph N. Akrotirianakis said in an interview. Akrotirianakis had recommended Perales serve 24 months in prison, a substantial reduction from the potential 30-year term he could have faced under federal sentencing guidelines. Real, however, disagreed.
Juarez also said several Cudahy employees and people who do business with the city paid bribes to city officials to get their jobs.
Perales, who served in several positions with the city during his 12 years in Cudahy, including interim city manager, said in an interview that he was directed to give city workers raises that they would kick back to Conde.
Documents recently filed with the court also pointed fingers at Perez. "As Perez's sidekick and driver, [Perales] was asked to pick up bribes from local businessmen and was compensated with a small percentage cut," Juarez wrote.
In a letter to the court in support of Silva, former city employee Gerardo Vallejo says he took drugs with Perez in the city manager's office.
"…we would be in his office so high, a council member would be knocking on the door, we would have the lights off, and wait for them to leave, often telling the council members we were in a meeting outside of City Hall, this went daily for years," he wrote.
Besides his probation, Real ordered Perales to pay $5,000 restitution and serve 1,500 hours of community service. "We're elated," Juarez said.
Silva was also scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but his attorney said he had the flu. He is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 28. Conde is set for sentencing Feb. 28.