Ex-Commerce official to serve home detention
A former Commerce councilman was sentenced by a federal judge to eight months of home detention and five years probation for trying to hide campaign contributions.
Robert Fierro, who recently resigned from his position, must also serve 500 hours of community service, wear an electronic monitoring bracelet during his home detention and pay a $3,000 fine after pleading guilty to a felony conspiracy charge, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Fierro reimbursed some contributors to his 2005 campaign with cash in a scheme that hid the true source of the funds, according to a sworn statement from his treasurer, who has also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.
When he learned of an FBI investigation into the scheme, he urged a contributor to tell "false stories" before the grand jury, the statement said.
Fierro, a preschool teacher, had been indicted by a grand jury and faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Fierro resigned before the sentencing but would not have been able to hold office as a convicted felon.
"Essentially this is someone who has betrayed the public trust," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Elisa Fernandez. "Interfering with witnesses goes to the core of our judiciary system."
In a recent interview, Fierro took full responsibility. "This mistake was contrary to all my beliefs and against everything I have strived to stand for," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions."
Fierro is the second Commerce official to be convicted on corruption charges since 2010. That year, Councilman Hugo Argumedo pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after he signed a false affidavit in support of an attorney who was suing the city over legal fees. Argumedo also resigned from office after pleading guilty. The city of 13,000, which is about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, has been known for its tumultuous political climate.
Recall campaigns have occurred frequently there in recent years, including an effort to oust Fierro in 2008. The 2005 election was Fierro's first political campaign, and he secured a narrow victory. The next spring, Fierro became aware of a federal investigation into his campaign, according to the statement from Ana Perez, his sister-in-law, who served as treasurer for the campaign. Perez and Fierro agreed to influence one contributor to deny the reimbursements in an interview with FBI agents, the statement said.
They also told the contributor, who was not named in the court documents, stories he could give to a grand jury to explain how the cash ended up in his bank account.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: FBI agents take Robert Fierro into custody at the Federal Building in Westwood in 2010. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times