Guilty pleas in Cudahy bribery case

Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2012

Los Angeles

David Silva, the former mayor of Cudahy, stood before a federal judge Thursday and admitted he accepted a $5,000 bribe in exchange for his support of a medical marijuana dispensary.

When asked outside court why he took the cash, Silva sheepishly said, “Greed, I guess.”

Silva, 61, and ex-Cudahy Councilman Osvaldo Conde each pleaded guilty to single counts of extortion and bribery that carry up to 30 years in prison. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

The two men, along with onetime City Manager Angel Perales, solicited and accepted $17,000 after meetings with the dispensary owner, who was working as an FBI informant. Perales pleaded guilty this week to similar charges.

Silva said it was a “stupid mistake” to take the bribe from the pot shop owner earlier this year. “It’s something I have to live with,” he said.

Conde, hands in his pockets as he left the courtroom, declined to comment.

The arrests are the latest in a series of corruption scandals involving small Los Angeles County cities. The former city manager and several other officials from neighboring Bell are awaiting trial on charges of misappropriating funds to overpay themselves.

On Tuesday, two former Lynwood City Council members were found guilty of illegally boosting their salaries and racking up inappropriate bills on city credit cards.

Court documents in the Cudahy case portrayed the suburb of 25,000 people as a corruption-riddled municipality where “money makes the monkey dance,” Perales once told the dispensary owner, according to court documents.

Conde, 50, was deemed the most powerful man in Cudahy by Perales, who said Conde and Silva weren’t typical elected officials.

“They’ve dealt with, uh, you know, people that throw money down,” Perales told the dispensary owner, according to an affidavit.

The approval of a medical marijuana dispensary, which had been prohibited in Cudahy, could have raked in huge profits. The informant estimated the clinic could generate up to $2.5 million within a year. The proposed dispensary never came before the council for approval.

As part of their plea agreements, Silva and Perales can’t be prosecuted for any crimes that arise out of related investigations, federal prosecutors said. In court documents filed in the bribery case, authorities said both men accepted cash bribes from a developer and Perales helped discard absentee ballots in two elections that supported candidates who challenged incumbents. Those accusations were not related to the proposed dispensary.