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Construction Projects Fast-Tracked by Los Angeles City Inspectors for Cash

LOS ANGELES | April 8, 2011

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, a confidential informant has provided the FBI with information in that as many as 40 cash bribes in exchange for approving and fast-tracking construction projects were accepted by City of Los Angeles building inspectors of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.

TWO INSPECTORS, ONE INFORMANT AND AN AFFIDAVIT

In an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Teresa L. Brand the details of the bribes are explained by the informant. The information provided led to the federal investigation of two City of Los Angeles building inspectors: Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock and Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena. Gonzalez and Germain were arrested Friday in connection with the bribery allegations.

The informant, a work site supervisor for a residential property developer, told Special Agent Brand that in addition to cash bribes, inspectors also accepted materials and labor for their personal homes. In one case, the informant said he or she had paid for an inspector’s vacation.

The informant “never refused to pay a bribe in connection with any such property, because acquiescence to bribe demands avoids delays in the construction inspection process and, at least with certain … inspectors, is the only way to pass inspections required in connection with residential construction projects,” according to the affidavit. It is unclear how many inspectors were involved in the alleged activity.

CITY AGENCY REACTION

Los Angeles City Council members stated Friday they want to know how widespread the allegations are. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (the “Department”) said Friday that the Department has determined that homes at the center of the federal bribery case are safe.

“The [D]epartment takes these matters, when they arise, very seriously and with zero tolerance,” said Department spokesman David Lara.

THE PROSECUTION

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis said that Gonzalez and Germain, who have each been charged with one count of federal bribery and made their first appearance in federal court Friday. Each of the two men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Attorney Akrontirianakis declined to say whether he anticipates more arrests coming out of the investigation.

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