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Longtime Vernon mayor, scion of ruling family, convicted of voter fraud

December 4, 2009 |  5:48 pm

A former mayor of Vernon and his wife were convicted today of voter fraud and conspiracy, capping a three-year legal saga that ended the family’s long grip on the tiny industrial city in southeast Los Angeles County.

Prosecutors accused Leonis and Dominica Malburg of engaging in an elaborate sham in which they pretended to reside in Vernon while they actually lived in a large home in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman.

“Many, many politicians ... claim they can run for office where they don’t really live,” Huntsman said. “That’s against the law. Our result here today says that unequivocally.” 

Although the charges carry a potential prison sentence, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson indicated that he would not sentence them to serve any time behind bars, Huntsman said.

Leonis Malburg was mayor of the city for more than half a century until he resigned earlier this year. His grandfather founded Vernon and the family name graced a street, a power plant and other features. Most of the town’s residents — who number fewer than 100 — work for the city or are family members of city employees, dependent on Vernon officials for their income.

Allegations that the Malburgs did not live in the city have dogged them for years. Prosecutors filed charges in 2006. During their probe, investigators uncovered evidence that their adult son, John, had sexually abused children.

In April, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

--Jack Leonard and Hector Becerra