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L.A. Now Live: How Lynwood corruption trial may affect Bell

July 23, 2012 |  8:35 am

Join Los Angeles Times reporter Abby Sewell and City Editor Shelby Grad for a discussion about the corruption trial in Lynwood -- and the implications it may have on other corruption prosecutions, including in Bell.

The live chat is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Prosecutors allege that Lynwood council members lived large on the working-class city's dime. The officials allegedly billed the city for trips to far-flung locales, including Beijing; Bermuda; Rio de Janeiro and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Prosecutors say one councilman charged his city credit card to watch Playboy channel movies at a Washington hotel. Another got a $100 daily allowance from the city to play in golf tournaments and attend a Tony Bennett concert and also used his city credit card for a $193 dinner at the House of Blues, according to prosecutors.

Among the most salacious bills: a $1,500 night out at a Guadalajara strip club, where dancers allegedly performed sexual favors for a council member and city manager — all apparently charged to the city.

But the most far-reaching allegation may well be the most mundane raised so far during the ongoing trial of two former Lynwood council members: that they didn't earn their salaries. Prosecutors say Louis Byrd and Fernando Pedroza broke the law by paying themselves tens of thousands of dollars each in stipends to sit on city commissions that appeared to do little, if any, work.

The contention has turned the Lynwood corruption trial into a test case for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which is expected to use the same argument in the case against former council members in the city of Bell. Those former officials are charged with misappropriating public funds.

"That's novel," Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, said of the prosecutors' strategy. "We probably could say that about many public officials.... I actually think that's going to be a kind of challenging case to make."

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