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Ex-Cudahy mayor gets federal prison in corruption case

In this file photo from July 2012, Cudahy community activist Blanca Ramos, center, hugs Maria Arizmendi, left, of Bell, and Nelida Sanchez, right, also of Bell, after addressing the City Council among residents who rallied at City Hall to discuss the restoration of good governance to the city. David Silva is in the background.
A former Cudahy mayor was sentenced to a year in federal prison Monday for his part in taking $17,000 in bribes from a man who wanted to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the southeast Los Angeles County city.

David Silva is the second Cudahy official to be sentenced after pleading guilty to bribery and extortion. As in the previous case, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ignored the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. In this case, Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Akrotirianakis recommended that Silva receive 41 months in prison.

Earlier this month, Angel Perales, Cudahy’s former head of code enforcement and acting city manager, was sentenced to five years' probation. Akrotirianakis had recommended he serve two years in prison.

Both men could have received 30 years in prison.

Former Councilman Osvaldo Conde is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 25.

The medical marijuana bribes led the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office to open an investigation into corruption in Cudahy. Documents released in the case revealed Cudahy as a place where bribes were commonplace for anyone wanting to do business with the city, long-time City Manager George Perez rigged elections, city employees served as armed bodyguards for council members and city workers illegally took Perez illegal pain pills.

Perales' attorney, Carlos Juarez, called Perez “the mastermind behind the bribery scandal in Cudahy,” and much of the investigation appears to be centered on him.

The investigation is continuing.

Asked about Perez as he left the courtroom, Silva said, “Hopefully, they’ll nail him.”

Perez’s attorney, Stanley L. Friedman, has said his client denies wrongdoing.

Silva’s attorney told Real that his client had “cooperated to the fullest extent” with authorities.

“If there is anyone from the L.A. Times here, put it in the paper. I am sorry to the people of Cudahy,” Silva said.

In addition to prison time, Real placed Silva on three years' probation and ordered him to serve 1,500 hours of community service and pay $17,000 in restitution.

In his sentencing memorandum arguing for the longer prison term, Akrotirianakis pointed to the sentence as a deterrence for other elected officials. “Corruption at the highest levels of smaller cities ... appears to be rampant in Los Angeles County and in this judicial district, and general deterrence appears to be necessary.”

Across the street from the federal courthouse where Silva was sentenced, six former council members from Bell, Cudahy’s neighbor, are being tried on corruption charges. As part of this investigation, the former mayor of Santa Fe Springs, Joseph Serrano Sr., was sentenced to two years in prison for taking $11,500 in bribes from the marijuana dispensary owner.

In his sentencing memo, Silva’s attorney, Patrick Aguirre, laid out a number of allegations against his client for which he has not been charged. One of them involved a piece of land Cudahy had bought for about $3 million. A developer agreed to pay the city $3.8 million for it. Conde arranged a deal in which the developer would pay what it had originally cost the city in exchange for him and Silva receiving $50,000 each.

He didn’t say in his memo that Silva and Perales had agreements with authorities that they would not be prosecuted for acts that they revealed.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: In this file photo from July 2012, Cudahy community activist Blanca Ramos, center, hugs Maria Arizmendi, left, of Bell, and Nelida Sanchez, right, also of Bell, after addressing the City Council among residents who rallied at City Hall to discuss the restoration of good governance to the city. David Silva is in the background.

 
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