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Former Montoya Aide Admits Guilt on 1 of 5 Counts in Plea Bargain

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former top Senate aide accused of helping ex-Sen. Joseph B. Montoya in an extortion scheme pleaded guilty Thursday to one felony count of making a false statement on a loan application.

Amiel A. Jaramillo, who worked for Montoya as the principal consultant to the Senate Business and Professions Committee, thus becomes the fifth person convicted in a long-running federal investigation of corruption in the state Capitol.

In exchange for the guilty plea, U.S. Atty. David F. Levi agreed to drop four counts of extortion and racketeering against Jaramillo. The 36-year-old lawyer faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He also could lose his license to practice law.

“It’s a serious crime,” Assistant U.S. Atty. John Vincent said. “We have obtained a felony conviction against this defendant and we can now move on to other things.”

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By avoiding a time-consuming trial, federal authorities can devote their attention to the continuing investigation of at least five other legislators: Sens. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana), Frank Hill (R--Whittier) and Daniel E. Boatwright (D--Concord) and Assembly members Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles).

Montoya, then-chairman of the Senate Business and Professions Committee, was convicted of seven corruption counts in February. Former Sen. Paul Carpenter, now a member of the State Board of Equalization, is scheduled to go to trial in August on four counts of extortion, racketeering and conspiracy.

Christopher H. Wing, Jaramillo’s attorney, said he expects the former Montoya aide to be subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury and questioned about legislators, staff members and lobbyists who are under investigation. However, he said Jaramillo has made no deal to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in exchange for a light sentence.

With his guilty plea, Jaramillo admitted that he failed to list more than $18,000 in outstanding student loans when he applied for a Veterans Administration loan on a house in Sacramento. Prosecutor Vincent said the outstanding debt, if properly reported, probably would have prevented Jaramillo from receiving the $116,000 loan.

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Evidence at Montoya’s trial showed that Jaramillo and the Democratic senator from Whittier were involved in real estate transactions together, including the purchase of a house with Montoya’s campaign funds.

The charge of making the false statement was not included in the initial charges against Jaramillo, who was originally indicted along with Montoya. At that time, Jaramillo was accused of aiding the senator in an extortion scheme and of engaging in three attempts to extract money from individuals seeking legislative action.

Among Jaramillo’s alleged victims were a San Diego company that makes mail-order contact lenses, representatives of Sacramento employment agencies and the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California.

In addition to Jaramillo and Montoya, others convicted as a result of the Capitol corruption investigation are former Assembly Republican staff member Karin Watson and former Yolo County Sheriff Rod Graham and his one-time top assistant, Wendell Luttrull.

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