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Industry sues former mayor, alleging 'extensive public corruption'

City of Industry sues ex-Mayor David Perez, alleging misappropriation of millions of dollars in public funds

The City of Industry has filed suit against former Mayor David Perez, his companies and four members of his family, alleging the misappropriation of millions of dollars in public funds through false or inflated invoices and the performance of unauthorized work on city contracts.

The suit echoes the finding of a city-commissioned audit, which found that the Perezes and their companies made more than $326 million from the city over the last two decades.

Since the findings were published in April, the state controller and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office have launched parallel investigations into the city's contracts with the Perez-owned companies.

Industry City Atty. Michele Vadon did not return calls for comment, and calls to members of the Perez family were not returned. The family’s attorney, Stephen G. Larson, called the lawsuit "nothing more than a politically motivated hatchet job," saying that it was filed a week before the city's June 2 elections.

The city is alleging multiple instances of fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty and unfair business practices, among other violations.

The suit doesn't specify an amount for damages, but claims that the Perez-owned companies misappropriated an amount "in the millions of dollars." The city asks for penalties of up to $11,000 for each alleged violation and seeks three times the amount of whatever damages the city sustained as restitution.

The district attorney's office investigated Industry's finances following a Times investigation in 2009 that detailed Perez's lucrative business dealings with the city. But the inquiry was dropped in 2011 and no charges were filed.

Perez, who served as Industry's mayor for about a decade, stepped down in 2012, citing health reasons and the desire to spend more time with his family.

City officials commissioned a KPMG audit of Industry's contracts with companies owned by the Perez family after Perez left office. Auditors claimed that Perez-owned companies submitted vague invoices, overcharged for services, and performed unauthorized work that led to heavy fines from a state water agency.

One company, Zerep Management, charged $133,000 a month for street cleaning services — work that the city's current contractor is performing for $20,000 a month.

Speaking for the company, Perez's nephew, also named David, disputed the findings of the audit to The Times last month.

He said it "sounds like the audit misrepresents my billing. I would have welcomed the opportunity to cooperate with this audit to explain and or dispute any discrepancies."

The lawsuit also claims Perez is trying to regain control of the city through the June 2 City Council elections by supporting a slate of candidates "over which he exercises and will continue to exercise undue influence and control."

The Industry City Council voted to terminated the city's contract with Zerep last year, and city officials say they are reevaluating all contracts with Perez-owned companies.

The suit also asks the court to freeze the assets of the Perezes and their companies until the lawsuit is resolved. It names Perez; his relatives Vincent, David, Christopher and Peter Perez; and several Perez-owned companies, including Zerep, Grand Central Recycling, Vincent's General Services and Valley Vista Services.

For more San Gabriel Valley news, follow me @frankshyong.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

11:07 a.m.: This post has been updated with comments from a family attorney.

This story was originally posted at 10:16 p.m. Thursday.

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