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Two brothers plead guilty in L.A. housing agency corruption case

March 19, 2012 |  4:26 pm

Two brothers of a former Los Angeles Housing Authority official charged in an elaborate scheme to steer construction contracts to family-controlled companies pleaded guilty Monday.

Bennett A. Taracena and Diego L. Taracena had earlier pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges but changed their pleas Monday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Their brother Victor Taracena, who supervised construction projects at the housing authority from 2003 to 2007, has also been charged but is a fugitive.

Federal prosecutors allege that Victor Taracena arranged for numerous contracts at housing projects to be awarded to companies controlled by his brothers. After those firms received checks from the housing authority, they allegedly kicked back payments to Victor Taracena, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed earlier this year.

Taracena, 41, wired at least $41,000 of that to a bank account in Guatemala, and one $8,000 payment specified that the money to Taracena was earmarked for the purchase of property there, the indictment said.

Contracts in the case were for design and construction of facilities to accommodate the disabled, such as wheelchair ramps, toilets and grab bars in city housing projects. In various instances, the housing authority appears to have overpaid for the services or paid twice for the same service.


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