Mayor Expected to Plead Guilty in Carson Scandal
Carson Mayor Daryl Sweeney, the central figure in a bribery scandal involving fellow officeholders, middlemen and municipal contractors, is expected to plead guilty today to federal corruption charges, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said Monday.
Details of his plea agreement with prosecutors will be disclosed when he appears this morning before U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson.
Sweeney, who was indicted last year on charges of extortion, money-laundering and mail fraud, would have faced a possible 10-year prison sentence, had he gone to trial and been convicted.
If he pleads guilty today, he will immediately lose his seat as mayor, a part-time job. Sweeney had been employed full time as chief of staff for Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, but he resigned in December after being indicted.
Reached at his home Monday, Sweeney, 45, declined to discuss his decision to change his plea and referred all questions to his criminal defense attorneys. They also declined to comment in advance of today’s scheduled court hearing.
Sweeney had been set to go on trial in September, along with his personal lawyer, Robert Dennis Pryce Jr., 52, who is charged with helping to arrange some bribes.
Eight other defendants pleaded guilty previously. They are: former Carson Mayor Pete Fajardo; former council members Raunda Frank and Manny Ontal; Douglas Allyn Moore and David Robinson, two former officials with Browning Ferris Industries, a waste disposal company; Michael Aloyan, owner of Hub City Disposal of Compton; Garland Hardeman, a consultant and former Inglewood councilman; and Pryce’s daughter, Kelly Walecki.
As prosecutors described the scheme in court papers, members of a majority bloc on the five-member Carson City Council, led by Sweeney, sought to line their own pockets at every opportunity, demanding kickbacks from companies that sought to do business with the city.
The alleged scheme came to light in 2000, when Ontal walked into the U.S. attorney’s office in Santa Ana and blew the whistle on himself and his colleagues. For the next two years, he worked undercover for federal investigators, wearing a concealed microphone during meetings with other council members as bribery schemes were allegedly hatched.
In one meeting, Sweeney was quoted as saying, “I think there are enough things coming down the pike where, if all of them pop, everybody’s going to be set.”
The biggest bribery attempt involved the two former officials from Browning Ferris Industries, who agreed to pay $600,000 through Pryce to win the city’s long-term contract for hauling waste. BFI won the contract, worth tens of millions of dollars, even though it was high bidder. The contract was subsequently withdrawn.
The city of Carson has 87,390 residents. It is situated in the South Bay and claims to be a leading center for international trade and commerce.
Carson is the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County. Its median income is $24,618, according to the 2000 Census.
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See correction that ran July 8, 2004, concerning a June 10, 2004 story about Manuel Ontal and Daryl Sweeney. This correction clarifies the facts about this case.
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