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LA city building inspector pleads guilty to taking bribes

May 5, 2011 |  5:06 pm

A man accused of taking bribes while working as a Los Angeles city building inspector pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday.

Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, and Hugo Gonzalez, 49, were arrested April 8 and charged with bribery for allegedly taking thousands of dollars from an undercover FBI agent posing as a residential construction contractor and from a confidential informant who worked for a major residential developer.

In pleading guilty to one count of accepting bribes, Germain admitted taking $6,000 from the undercover agent between November 2010 and January 2011 to sign off on documents for properties in South Los Angeles that he had not inspected and, in one case, never visited.

Gonzalez pleaded not guilty last month to the same charge. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Under Germain’s plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a lower sentencing range than he might have faced if he had been convicted. However, the judge could still give Germain the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing is set for Sept. 19.

The plea agreement did not include any agreement to testify against Gonzalez or to cooperate in any ongoing investigation into bribery in the building department, and Germain’s attorney, Steven M. Cron, said he does not anticipate that his client will be cooperating in any further investigation.

Both inspectors were placed on administrative leave by the city at the end of February after receiving an anonymous tip. Building and safety department spokesman David Lara said Germain was officially terminated Wednesday and Gonzalez was fired Thursday.

--Abby Sewell