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4 school officials charged with taking bribes from contractor

January 4, 2012 |  2:35 pm

Four current and former officials of a suburban school district in San Diego County face criminal charges stemming from allegations that they took bribes in a case that District Atty. Bonnie Dumanis on Wednesday said represented a "pay for play" culture. 

“The widespread corruption we uncovered during our investigation of this case is outrageous and shameful,” Dumanis said in announcing a total of 26 felony charges against five defendants, including a contractor accused of paying bribes .

Charged were Sweetwater Union High School trustees Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones, former trustee Greg Sandoval, former superintendent Jesus Gandara, and contractor Henry Amigable.

The charges -- which include bribery, perjury, filing a false statement and influencing an elected official -- allege that Amigable provided the school officials with thousands of dollars of restaurant meals, Los Angeles Lakers playoff tickets, Rose Bowl tickets, airline tickets, theater tickets and concert tickets.

Some of the officials solicited cash for their children’s beauty pageants and field trips, according to the prosecution.

In exchange for the favors, the board members allegedly voted to award contracts to firms associated with Amigable. The money came from a $644-million bond issue approved by voters in the sprawling district in 2006.

“The corruption was nothing short of systemic,” Dumanis said.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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