A federal judge sentenced a former MTA insurance executive to 14 months in federal prison Monday for accepting more than $140,000 in bribes, calling the actions “serious, if not despicable.”
Government attorneys had sought an eight-month sentence for Abdoul Sesay, who oversaw insurance contracts at the county transit agency for four years, but U.S. District Judge George H. King said he believed the behavior warranted more severe punishment.
According to prosecutors, Sesay is likely to serve 85% of the sentence under federal guidelines; he has asked to be sent to a prison camp in Southern California.
Sesay pleaded guilty in July 1995 to felony charges of receiving kickbacks from insurance companies and consultants seeking work at the agency, as well as tax evasion. It was the first criminal case brought in connection with a federal investigation of the Metro Rail subway project.
In his plea, Sesay admitted to accepting payments of $25,000 from Gilda A. DeSmith, a onetime MTA risk management consultant, who received $80,000 in consulting contracts.
Sesay, a 46-year-old Torrance resident, also admitted that he received $115,000 in 24 separate cash and credit card payments from New York insurance consultant John D. McAllister, a longtime friend.
McAllister, who received $425,000 in work from the county transit agency on Sesay’s recommendation, was convicted on federal bribery charges in December. He contended that most of the payments to Sesay were loans that had not yet been repaid.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Marc S. Harris, who prosecuted both men, expressed surprise and satisfaction that the judge “threw the book” at Sesay.
Harris said he had sought an eight-month sentence because the executive readily admitted his guilt to investigators and testified against McAllister. During McAllister’s trial, Sesay expressed remorse and said he had disgraced himself and his family.
“This sentence sends an extremely strong message to our public officials and others dealing with public agencies that any manipulation of the MTA contracting process will result in very harsh penalties,” he said.
McAllister is scheduled to be sentenced March 24.
Sesay was unavailable for comment. He is scheduled to surrender to authorities March 3.
U.S. Atty. Nora Manella said the two prosecutions are evidence that the federal government is “vigilantly watching” the MTA contracting process. U.S. taxpayers are paying half the cost of building Los Angeles’ $5.9-billion subway system.