Carson Mayor Pete Fajardo was arrested Thursday on charges that he violated conditions of his probation by leaving the country, federal authorities said.
Fajardo, 58, last month surprised his constituents by issuing a statement from the Philippines via speaker phone saying he would not be a candidate for reelection in the March election.
Thursday’s arrest was a consequence of that trip.
Fajardo had received a probationary sentence in July after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of collecting fees as an attorney. Fajardo, who is not an attorney but worked as a paralegal for years, was sentenced to one year’s probation and ordered to pay the $4,600 he collected in fees.
According to Deputy U.S. Marshal Jimell Griffin, conditions of Fajardo’s parole required that he obtain permission from the court before leaving the country. Griffin said Fajardo asked for permission and was declined. In late November, Fajardo left for the Philippines anyway.
Upon learning of the trip, federal authorities issued a warrant Jan. 17 for Fajardo’s arrest. Then on Thursday morning about 10 a.m., deputy U.S. marshals and Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives arrested him at his home while he was trying to escape through the back door, Griffin said.
Griffin added that when officers searched Fajardo, they found several thousand dollars in cash, his passport and a one-way ticket to the Philippines. Fajardo is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles awaiting arraignment.
“The City Council of Carson is saddened by this event,” said City Manager Jerry Groomes during a news conference at the Carson Community Center. “We hope the issues will soon be resolved.”
Groomes said council member Kay Calas will serve as mayor while Fajardo is detained.
Carson, a city of about 88,000, is divided nearly equally among whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians. As mayor, Fajardo, a Filipino American, had been criticized for allegedly favoring Filipinos in some City Hall appointments and for his efforts to oust Groomes, an African American, from his position as city manager. The charges divided the city’s leadership along ethnic lines, with many blacks supporting Groomes.
After Fajardo pleaded guilty to federal charges, many Carson residents said his support among Filipinos began to crumble. In withdrawing from the March election, he cited poor health as the reason.
Some residents critical of Fajardo attended the news conference and said it confirmed their worst suspicions about the mayor.
“We’ve been saying all along that he’s not a proper role model, and this confirms it,” said Pat Hellerud.
None of the other four members of the council, or any citizen supporters of the mayor, showed up.