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L.A. building inspectors accepted up to 40 cash bribes and a vacation, informant tells FBI [Updated]

Bribes - Germain $1500 bribe
Los Angeles city building inspectors accepted as many as 40 cash bribes in exchange for approving and fast-tracking construction projects, a confidential informant told the FBI.

The details of the bribes are laid out by the confidential informant in an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Teresa L. Brand and led to the federal probe of two city building inspectors, Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock and Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena. Gonzalez and Germain were arrested Friday in connection with the bribery allegations.

The informant, a work site supervisor for a residential property developer with 80 to 100 citywide projects each year, told Brand that in addition to cash bribes, inspectors also accepted materials and labor for their personal homes. In one case, the unnamed informant said he or she had paid for an inspector's vacation.

The informant "never refused to pay a bribe in connection with any such property, because acquiescence to bribe demands avoids delays in the construction inspection process and, at least with certain … inspectors, is the only way to pass inspections required in connection with residential construction projects," according to the affidavit. It is unclear how many inspectors were involved in the alleged activity.

Click to read the FBI affidavitCouncil members said Friday they want to know how widespread the allegations are. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety said Friday that his agency has determined that homes at the center of the federal bribery case are safe.

"The department takes these matters, when they arise, very seriously and with zero tolerance," said department spokesman David Lara.

Gonzalez and Germain, who have each been charged with one count of federal bribery, made their first appearance in federal court Friday. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Akrotirianakis said. He declined to say whether he anticipates more arrests coming out of the investigation.

Germain was released on $100,000 bond, on the condition that he resolve an outstanding warrant on a traffic ticket. Gonzalez, whom the judge deemed to be a flight risk because of his frequent travel to Mexico, remains detained until trial.

Germain's attorney, Steven M. Cron, declined to comment after the hearing. The federal public defender representing Gonzalez could not be immediately reached for comment.

Germain joined the department in 2005 and earns just over $90,000 per year. Gonzalez was hired in 2006 and earns nearly $88,000 annually. Both men were assigned to inspect single-family homes, not commercial buildings or multi-story apartments, Lara said.

Both men were placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 25, roughly a month after city officials got their own anonymous tip.


L.A. building inspectors facing federal bribery charges

DOCUMENT: FBI affidavit about building inspector Hugo Gonzalez

DOCUMENT: FBI affidavit about building inspector Raoul Germain

-- David Zahniser and Abigail Sewell

Photo: The FBI arrested Los Angeles City building inspector Raoul Joseph Germain on suspicion of accepting $6,000 in bribes in exchange for approvals of construction projects. Germain is shown accepting $1,500 in cash in a photograph taken by an undercover FBI agent, according to federal investigators.

Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office

Comments () | Archives (16)

the criminals are earning $90000 plus BRIBES and they have a PUBLIC DEFENDER? on our dime? what a f@#$%up system!

Has the Building & Safety inspector been to 467 East 47th Street LA CA? One of the people incharged said the inspector would show up after the work was completed. We have not seen anyone there yet. Has Building & Safety changed the laws for a select few? No wonder so many people have been adding for rooms to their homes to rent, and renting out former business to people to live in.

ahhh yes Detroit style!!!

This is news? I did an estimate 3 years ago for a guy living in a fabulous mansion way up at the top of Encino and I asked him what he did. Answer; "L.A. Building Inspector".

What they are just finding out about this. You got to be kidding. Is the system that stupid, oh ya that's right, they were doing to before they got promoted, it's just they never got caught. It is not any different then the Health Inspectors that go to resturants. They do the same thing, I know I use to be in the business,and got out because of them and the Better Buisness Buruea. The whole damn system are crooks, and don't get me started on the fire inspector's they think....

'bout time

That is the tip of the iceberg: Local Residents have been waiting for more than a YEAR to have Building and Safety deal with a slew of apparent violations at a local private school... Despite videos [see them here http://clintonlabreacommunity.wordpress.com/ ] of what appears to be multiple violations there has been no action taken... Maybe it's OK for companies to use their parking structures for whatever they want... and to dump effluent into the streets!

For at least the last fifteen years, state law requires new hires for the position of building inspector to hold ICC certifications for the discipline that they will be inspecting.
Neither one of these so called building inspectors have the required certifications to be employed as building inspectors. Gonzalez has an ICC certification as a combination dwelling inspector but it is not a Ca. combination certificate and Germain has none at all. $90k a year with no certs, who would of thought?

LA City: You are not getting your moneys worth. Chances are that an inspection by either of these two wouldn't turn out any different, with or without the bribe but they are making you look bad.

Here's another bit of truth; There are other B/S employees and contractors that are guilty of the same or worse.

There is no way that a contractor is going to pay a solicited bribe unless he has to. The only way a contractor would feel compelled to pay a bribe is if the contractor believed that a complaint would go nowhere.
Now if the contractor offered the bribe unsolicited, I don't understand how the B/S dept can declare the houses as safe to occupy. What did the contractor leave out of the construction to warrant a bribe to the inspector?

Well it's one or the other and neither scenario speaks well of LA City B/S. From another source, I heard that the investigation took 17 months. Plenty of substandard construction can take place in 17 months. So B/S sat back and watched these two work their magic for that long without stepping in.

I would say that the city is open to lawsuits for every inspection they did for at least 17 months. The lawsuit would claim that the city didn't do any required inspections for the 17 months of the investigation and didn't send a qualified inspector ever.

People pay many thousands of dollars for permits and they get nothing in return. At the very least, they should get back all of the permit fees. If the city can't comply with state law and send certified inspectors, then the city shouldn't be issuing permits and taking the money to begin with. Wait a minute, that sounds like another bribe huh.

Don't think for a minute that the informant [job site superintendent] paid the bribe himself. The company paid and new about it from the beginning.

If they would pay these guys enough, give them job security, great medical benefits and a fantastic pension, they wouldn't need to be so desperate and greedy for the extra money, right? Oh, wait, they do have all those things, unlike everyone else. Time to shake up civil servant rosters. There are plenty of good honest folks that would LOVE to have those jobs.

My friends family is in the construction business. He would tell me about this young inspector that would come to inspect their projects. They would tell me how they would always have to bribe him with marijuana so they wouldn't have "any problems".

Interesting that the building inspectors obviously LEARNED of the investigation underway (though of course they were too greedy to stop for a few weeks). Hmmmmm. How could THAT have happened?

And politctians want to raise our taxes to continue to pay the ever rising salaries and pensions of public employees like this ? Good god I am beginning to think every other public employee and politician is just plain greedy.

If found GUILTY, I hope they give them the maximum years 10 years, community service and $250,000 restitution. City Council and Mayor need to drive throughout their City and see that endless amounts of residential homes have been ruined due to CHEAP add ons and improvements. I hate to see what would happen if LA were ever hit with an earthquake in the magnitude above 8.0 Building and Safety Inspectors need to enforce City building codes.

Is it just me, or is taking bribes the dumbest thing in the world? I mean, the very person who bribed you can turn you in, and get immunity as a witness!

Buildind& Safety will tell you how busy they are because of the of a four day week. FBI needs to clean up the whole department, and the managers need to go.

How's this any different than City Councilmen pressuring inspectors to "accommodate" their pals!


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