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Former Rosemead mayor changes plea in bribery case

December 7, 2012 |  2:47 pm

A former Rosemead mayor whose bid for a state Assembly seat was cut short when he pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge has changed his plea to not guilty, citing new information that might discredit an informant who helped the government build its case.

John Tran admitted in February that while he was on the Rosemead City Council he extracted $10,000 from a developer who wanted to build a mixed-use office and residential project in Rosemead.

After agreeing to plead guilty, Tran stepped down from his seat on the El Monte Union High School District board and withdrew from the race for the 49th Assembly District seat being vacated by termed-out Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park). 

But last month, Tran asked the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. Tran said he had discovered new information about the developer, Tammy Gong, including that she had used multiple aliases and had been involved in dozens of lawsuits, including several in which she was sued over fraud allegations.

The investigation of Tran stemmed from a complaint by Gong, who also served as a confidential informant during the probe.

Federal Judge Dale S. Fischer granted the request Monday, meaning Tran's case will likely go to trial.

The U.S. attorney's office argued that the new information about Gong's background was irrelevant to the case against Tran, saying that Gong's statements were "corroborated by other witnesses and bank records, and then by defendant’s own words and actions during recorded meetings. Then, months before he pleaded guilty, defendant confessed to bribery and a number of other federal felonies before a federal prosecutor, a room full of federal agents and his own criminal defense attorney."

Fischer's order granting the change of plea noted that withdrawal of the plea "ultimately may prove to be unwise" but agreed with Tran that: "The new evidence about the informant is certainly relevant in that it casts doubt on her veracity and her possible motivations for taking part in the bribery scheme with Defendant, and her motivations for cooperating with the government."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph N. Akrotirianakis said in February that in exchange for Tran's guilty plea, federal prosecutors would not pursue additional charges of extortion and obstruction of justice. Akrotirianakis could not be immediately reached for comment on his plans to proceed with the case.


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 -- Abby Sewell

Photo: John Tran during his campaign for reelection as Rosemead's mayor in 2009. Credit: Los Angeles Times