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L.A. building inspector gets 18-month sentence for taking bribes

October 3, 2011 |  4:03 pm

Photos: Federal prosecutors say photo shows Raoul Joseph Germain taking a bribe. Credit: FBIA building inspector snared in an undercover FBI investigation into bribe-taking at Los Angeles City Hall was sentenced Monday to a year and a half in prison.

Hugo Gonzalez, 49, was caught on tape accepting $9,000 in bribes for permits involving a handful of construction sites in South L.A. The L.A. resident was recorded demanding payment from both an undercover FBI agent and a confidential informant.

At one point, Gonzalez also said he wanted to kill the employee of a real estate developer with which he was dealing –- and then flee to Mexico, according to an affidavit filed by investigators. “They would never find me,” he said in the secretly recorded conversation.

During another recording, Gonzalez said via phone that he was in Colima, Mexico, and needed a bribe to be deposited directly into his Wells Fargo account. In a third, Gonzalez said he would need to pay off another inspector before he could receive permission to accept a bribe from someone with a project outside his inspection territory, the affidavit said.

The case is part of a larger investigation into the city's Department of Building and Safety. A federal grand jury sent the agency a subpoena in April seeking personnel records of a dozen employees, including Gonzalez and Raoul Germain, 60, of Altadena. Germain was sentenced to one year and nine months in federal prison last week.

Two other Building and Safety employees have been fired as a result of an internal city investigation into bribe-taking. One of them, Frank Rojas, has filed an appeal of his termination with the city’s Civil Service Commission, which has five members selected by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.


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City expands probe into corruption allegations

Building department ordered to revive internal investigations unit

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photos: Federal prosecutors say photo shows Raoul Joseph Germain taking a bribe. Credit: FBI