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Former Port of L.A. police chief admits to tax evasion and lying to the FBI

The former chief of police at the Port of Los Angeles pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of tax evasion and providing a false statement to the FBI.

Ronald Boyd, who previously oversaw the police agency at one of the nation's busiest seaports, also admitted to a misdemeanor count of failure to file a complete income tax return in 2011, according to his attorney, Vicki Podberesky.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the federal corruption charges that alleged Boyd, 58, hid his business ties to a software developer he was helping to win a contract at the port, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

On the day he was scheduled to go to trial, the Torrance resident entered his plea before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.

Boyd, who once worked as the valet to singer Ray Charles, faces up to 11 years in federal prison at a sentencing scheduled for July 25.

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His attorney said that sentencing guidelines call for a lighter prison term of 21 to 27 months. He also owes about $520,000 in restitution for the tax evasion charge, Podberesky said.

"I think it's a fair resolution," Podberesky told The Times. "It clearly represents that Chief Boyd did not act with any corrupt intent."

Boyd retired from the Port of L.A. on Nov. 29, according to a spokesman for the port.

In April, Boyd was indicted and accused of defrauding the city “by means of bribery and kickbacks” and providing confidential information about the port to a software company that was developing an app called PortWatch. The application was designed to help port workers, city officials and nearby residents share information about possible criminal activity.

The indictment alleges that Boyd helped PortWatch’s developer tailor its responses to the Port of Los Angeles' contract proposals; edited the company's contract with the port so that he, as police chief, would be responsible for overseeing the progress and development of the application; and met with then-Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa regarding PortWatch.

But the indictment alleged Boyd never informed city and port officials that his firm, BDB Digital Communications, had an agreement with the same company to receive a share of revenue from a similar app that was in development, MetroWatch.

An unidentified company executive made it clear to Boyd that the partnership depended on the company being awarded the PortWatch contract by the city, the indictment alleged.

Attorney Podberesky insisted that no bribe was offered and that Boyd never accepted one.

"We strongly feel and know that there was no fraud committed by the chief," Podberesky added.

The charge of making false statements stemmed from the police chief's interview with FBI agents.

According to the indictment, Boyd told federal investigators that he had no financial stake in MetroWatch and that the company he helped form to partner with MetroWatch’s developer was actually created to sell body armor.

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In his plea agreement, Boyd admitted that he lied to the investigators when he said he had no financial stake in MetroWatch, according to the the U.S. Attorney's office.

The tax evasion count stemmed from the failure to disclose his total income on his tax returns from 2007 to 2011, his attorney said. The income that was not disclosed came from the owner of a company that did business with the the Port of L.A., American Guard Services, prosecutors said.

The misdemeanor count was related to his failure to file taxes in 2011 for the Torrance-based security company that he had an ownership interest in, At Close Range Inc., Podberesky said. In his plea agreement, Boyd admitted to not filing taxes on the company from 2007 to 2011, prosecutors said.

After Boyd's plea deal was announced, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's office in L.A., David Bowdich, said in a statement that such actions by public officials "erode the public's trust in government."

“Law enforcement officials at all levels have an obligation to uphold the law and remain loyal to the citizens they swore to serve," Bowdich said.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:40 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details from the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles.

This story was originally published at 6:12 p.m.

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