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LOCALCITY HALL

Fraud and perjury trial of ex-Councilman Alarcon and wife begins

Politics and GovernmentElectionsTrials and ArbitrationJustice SystemCrimeWendy GreuelLos Angeles City Council
Statements begin in trial of Richard Alarcon and wife on over 20 felony counts
Prosecutor says councilman registered in Panorama City, lived in Sun Valley
Wendy Greuel may testify that councilman on trial asked to shift district boundaries

Wendy Greuel could be called to testify in the perjury and voter fraud case against her former Los Angeles City Council colleague Richard Alarcon, a prosecutor said in opening statements Thursday.

Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, are accused of falsely claiming to live in what then was L.A.'s 7th District so Alarcon could run to represent the area on the City Council — which he did until he was termed out of office last year. Together, the Alarcons face more than 20 felony counts.

In her opening statement Thursday, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Gilmer called Alarcon a "career politician." She said that though he won a seat in the California Assembly in November 2006, he immediately wanted to run for a council seat that was left vacant by the same election.

"The only problem is," Gilmer told the jury, "he had to live in the district."

The main point of contention in the case is whether the couple's permanent residence was in Panorama City, in the 7th District, or at a different home in Sun Valley, in the 2nd District, between 2006 and 2009. They've been accused of lying on campaign, voter and Department of Motor Vehicle documents during those years by saying they lived in Panorama City.

Gilmer said Alarcon registered to vote three days after the November election and listed his home as 14451 Nordhoff St. in Panorama City. However, Gilmer contends that Alarcon actually lived in the Sun Valley house.

Gilmer said Alarcon had once asked Greuel — when she represented the 2nd District — to agree to shift her boundaries so the Sun Valley home would be in his District 7. Greuel declined.

Gilmer contended that the home on "Nordhoff was supposed to be a trick to the eyes — an illusion," Gilmer said. "It's a real house, but they weren't living there."

Under the City Charter, candidates running for a council seat must reside in the district they seek to represent.

Alarcon's attorney, Richard Lasting, said that the Nordhoff home in Panorama City was in fact Alarcon's permanent residence, and that he wasn't always there because he was doing an "extensive renovation project" on the house in anticipation of a daughter's birth in 2008.

"The house needed some work," Lasting said.

The lawyer said that Alarcon always planned to return to the Nordhoff home once the work was completed. He said the project took many years because Alarcon didn't hire a contractor, and was doing the repairs himself, and didn't have much time outside of his work as a councilman.

Lasting said that during the trial he would show multiple receipts proving that Alarcon and his wife were fixing up the house, and were preparing to move back in 2009 when they found an intruder had moved into the home. Therefore, they could not move back in immediately.

Prosecutor Gilmer also mentioned the intruder, but as evidence that the Alarcons weren't living in the home. She also said that she would go over utility bills for water and gas that show usage levels too low for people to be living in the house.

Alarcon and his wife have denied any wrongdoing. Montes de Oca Alarcon's charges are related to lying on voter and vehicle documents.

The beginning of the trial this week comes nearly four years after the couple was initially charged in the case.

Alarcon is no longer a councilman. He ran in 2012 to represent the 39th District in the California Assembly, but lost amid the negative publicity from the pending criminal case.

Mark Overland, Montes de Oca Alarcon's attorney, said he expected the trial to last three to four weeks.

soumya.karlamangla@latimes.com

Follow @skarlamangla on Twitter for more county and city government news.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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