Corruption, drug allegations at Cudahy City Hall anger residents
Allegations of widespread corruption at Cudahy City Hall have residents reeling.
"This city and its residents can no longer afford to be held hostage to this individual who blatantly abused the public's trust and his position of leadership and authority to indulge in self-enrichment at the expense of the safety of our community," the city manager, Hector Rodriguez, said in a statement.
Blanca Ramos, who founded a citizens reform group, called the alleged fraud an "injustice" to the people of Cudahy.
"People take the time to vote and they instead do this. It's very disappointing," Ramos said. "They're stealing from us and that's not right, it's not what American is about."
Authorities alleged that Cudahy officials took part in brazen and widespread corruption, including accepting cash bribes hidden in a shoe box, abusing drugs at City Hall and throwing out absentee ballots that favored election challengers.
The allegations paint an alarming picture of a city government permeated by graft far more extensive than was laid out when three city officials were arrested last month for allegedly accepting $17,000 in bribes from a medical marijuana dispensary owner.
The revelations are contained in a plea agreement for Mayor David Silva and former code enforcement head Angel Perales. They agreed to plead guilty Thursday to bribery and extortion charges in connection with the pot dispensary. The third official is councilman Osvaldo Conde.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Akrotirianakis said the investigation is continuing but would not provide details. A federal grand jury has been meeting on the case.
"There's a number of different types of corruption here, from election fraud to pay to play to tipping off of police investigations," Akrotirianakis said. "The very definition of democracy is that all those qualified as voters have the opportunity to cast their votes and to have those votes counted."
The alleged election fraud involved highly charged City Council races in 2007 and 2009, in which the city power structure was challenged for the first time in nearly a decade.
Documents show that a former Cudahy official, identified only as "G.P.," asked Perales and others to enlist nonresidents to register to vote in city. Akrotirianakis would not say whether G.P. was George Perez, the longtime Cudahy city manager who was dismissed last year without explanation. Perez's attorney, Stanley L. Friedman, said the FBI had interviewed his client, but he denied that Perez was involved in any fraud.
One of the more bizarre allegations contained in the complaint is that some city officials abused prescription pain medication — and dispensed it — at City Hall.
According to federal prosecutors, G.P. would instruct Perales and other city employees to bring "narcotic pain medications for use at Cudahy City Hall." G.P. "would occasionally provide such drugs to Perales and other city employees."
-- Ruben Vives, Jeff Gottlieb and Hector Becerra
Photo: Cudahy City Hall. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times