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L.A. building inspectors facing federal bribery charges

Two Los Angeles city building inspectors are facing federal bribery charges in connection with thousands of dollars in payoffs given for approval of work at residential building sites without an inspection.

Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock, and Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena, were arrested Friday morning by FBI agents and were expected to be arraigned this morning.

The FBI began a criminal investigation last summer after an informant -– a work site supervisor for a residential property developer –- tipped them off that the suspects had allegedly taken cash bribes to give permit approvals on construction projects, according to criminal complaints in the case.

Gonzalez allegedly took a total of $9,000 in bribes from an informant and undercover FBI agent, and Germain allegedly accepted $6,000, according to criminal complaints in the case. In some cases, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the inspectors had never even set foot on the job sites in question.


According to court documents, Germain allegedly said in a recorded conversation with an undercover agent, “I drive by every once in a while, take a look. I won’t even stop and get off.”

The Department of Building and Safety opened an investigation into possible bribe taking in January and put the two men on administrative leave on Feb. 25, agency spokesman David Lara said.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district also takes in part of South Los Angeles, called the allegations “deplorable” and said the public deserves homes that are built to the highest safety standards.

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--Abby Sewell and Dave Zahnhiser

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

Wow we need to look at all the jobs they approved now this is really dangerous we can have lots of buildings not up to code in this town putting the public in great danger!

Gee, what a surprise!

I hope this is not the end of the FBI's investigation. I don't see the name of the Inspector who approved the electrical done on my home improvement project which resulted in my electrical panel overheating, almost burning down my house because of sub-standard material. I have managed to resolve that problem but the poor roofing job is still causing a leak over my kitchen window and I've had several people out to look at it, and NONE have been able to fix it properly. The State Contractors Licensing Board needs a remedy like the one applied to the City of Bell. The CSLB is the primary reason why proven "criminal" contractors still have a license to work. The Commercial sector used to have the same problems but they took care of it themselves (without the help of inept/corrupt government agencies) by creating a Construction Management Division and would probably save the lives of millions in the event of a disaster like Japan's. I can't say I have the same confidence in the Residential industry. The CSLB uses all these rules to keep the independent, reliable neighborhood contractors out of business all the while making it easier for criminals to game the system and ruin the lives of poor unsuspecting homeowners who believe their government really works for them. Good work FBI, but the job is incomplete!

Were these tax payer funded inspectors?

Once again, accountability.
This City is mismanaged.
No plan to fix the problems, just band aids.
mayor taking free tickets, councilpersons taking free tickets, inspectors being bribed, DWP workers at strip clubs and liquor stores, and all the while, employees being furloughed, laid off, services cut, and streets left in disrepair.
Corruption in its latest form raises its ugly head.
WASTE-FRAUD-CORRUPTION

Representative of how corrupt all levels of the government bureaucracy has become.

No doubt a unionized government worker

Many of the buildings errected in California during the bubble years were built below the standards set out in the UBC, and state law and local ordinances. If you own one of these buildings you probably should get an independent inspection while you still have time to go after the builders for damages. If you have a claim later due to substandard construction the insurance company will refuse to pay
.

What about these structures, throughout the county, built too close to freeways without permits which were later somehow made ok after the fact? Checkout garages converted without permit and the abundance of backyard dwellings built without permits. Backyards are junked-up with these dwellings with people living in them. This creates overcrowded streets with too many vehicles parked on streets, yards, and in driveways. Looks like trash dumps. Perhaps no one cares because these neighborhoods are mostly low-income and so-called minority neighborhoods, but there are a lot of fire-hazards waiting to happen all over the city with this new culture of overcrowded neighborhoods. When these type of places change hands the new owners will have a problem because the new cultures have made a mess of many neighborhoods.

I agree with all writers except this having something to do with unions or that it is business as usual, that is just a cheap shot.

Some corruption will always be with us but the difference between this country and some third-world cesspool of corruption is that we adamantly refuse accept it. These inspectors may have exposed people who relied on them to fire, electrical and structural hazards that could be costly or even fatal. The contractors who bribed them should be punished too. They should be fired, do some jail time and be stripped of their contractors licenses.

Government workers are as honest and hard-working as anyone else, at least most of the police, fire, military, postal, DMV, Cal-Trans and other workers I've encountered seem to. They just can't hire PR firms to polish their image like private companies do and it is a cheap shot to paint them as layabouts. I can appreciate the writers frustration with the CSLB but they are probably massively understaffed at this point.

This is not "typical" and the corruption should be rooted out and eliminated, there is NO WAY this culture should be tolerated. No witch hunts but find those that are doing this and kick them to the curb. Also notify current property owners whether their contractor bribed to break the building code and for what (in building their house or commercial property) let the contractor pay to fix it. I am all in favor of lawyers and private lawsuits in this case.

Great Job L.A.....I will keep helping....as much as i can.I just wish Ohio...Cared this Much!Instead of Helping....They are Living Law Enforcement.

Over 90 percent of the homes I inspect have illegal construction.

When buying a home, check to make sure your square footage meets that of the building department. It is defferent than what the appraiser notes.

Curious to know why the FBI did not inform the LAPD for their investigation, since it seems that the local police had already started their own, more wide-spread and deeper, process earlier. Did the FBI not trust the LAPD detectives. Presumably, two separate investigations would cause great confusion. Or were the FBI just seeking credit for these two low-level arrests, without going any further? Obviously, it will now be very difficult to find out if there are more corrupt housing inspectors, or if the problems go up the chain of command.

This does not surprise me. I am a licensed general building contractor here in Los Angeles and have been approached by more than one inspector to accept a gratuity for looking the other way on a "deficiency".


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