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Ex-Lynwood officials get prison terms for corruption

Former Lynwood Councilman Fernando in 2003.

A pair of former Lynwood City Council members convicted of misappropriating public funds by illegally boosting their salaries were sentenced Friday to state prison terms.

Compton Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter sentenced Louis Byrd, 80, to five years in state prison and Fernando Pedroza, 47, to four years. Byrd had faced a maximum sentence of six years, and Pedroza faced five.

The former council members were convicted in July after a month-long trial during which prosecutors argued that they broke the law by accepting tens of thousands of dollars in stipends for sitting on city commissions that appeared to do little, if any, work — an arrangement Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett called "clearly a scam."

The allegations regarding illegal salaries were similar to those that the district attorney's office have brought against former Bell council members in a case still awaiting trial. Pedroza and Byrd were also accused of misusing city credit cards, charging the city for lavish travel expenses and accepting stipends for attending events that were unrelated to city business.

Prosecutors argued that Byrd took about $330,000 for personal use and Pedroza took more than $160,000.

The district attorney's office said in a statement that the men had "begged for leniency but refused to apologize for their actions."

According to the statement, Pedroza apologized to his family and the judge asked if he was also apologizing to the people of Lynwood. Pedroza said, "No."

Defense attorneys for the former council members could not be immediately reached. At trial, they argued that Byrd and Pedroza had relied for legal advice on city attorneys and city managers who never alerted them that the commission stipends and other payments might be illegal.

The men were charged in 2007 after a four-year investigation, along with three other former council members. Charges against two, Armando Rea and Ricardo Sanchez, were dismissed.

Another former councilman, Arturo Reyes, pleaded guilty to grand theft and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 12. 

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— Abby Sewell

twitter.com/sewella

Photo: Former Lynwood Councilman Fernando in 2003. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
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