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Los Angeles building inspector pleads guilty to bribery

A Los Angeles city building inspector who was arrested in a government sting operation for taking cash to sign off on development projects has agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge in federal court.

Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena, was one of two former inspectors arrested this month on suspicion of taking thousands of dollars in bribes from an FBI informant and an undercover FBI agent in exchange for signing off on building inspections that never took place.

Germain agreed Thursday to plead guilty to one count of bribery concerning programs that receive federal funds.

The second inspector arrested in the case, Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock, was indicted on the same charge Wednesday by a federal grand jury. He will be arraigned Monday.

Germain could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Steven M. Cron, said his client was "very remorseful" and wanted to plead guilty as early in the process as possible.

"In light of everything that occurred and that he did, we felt this was the appropriate action to take," Cron said.

With his plea agreement, Germain admitted to taking $6,000 in bribes between November 2010 and January 2011 from an undercover agent who was posing as a contractor employed by a large-scale residential developer.

In exchange, Germain signed off on inspection records for several South Los Angeles developments that he had not inspected and, in one case, had never even visited.

On March 15, FBI agents approached Germain, who confessed his involvement in the bribery scheme, according to the document.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Akrotirianakis said Germain's acceptance of responsibility would probably reduce the recommended sentencing range in the case by about nine months, although the court is not bound to take the recommendation. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The plea agreement did not include a promise to testify against Gonzalez or to cooperate in any ongoing investigation. Both inspectors were placed on administrative leave at the end of February after the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety received its own anonymous tip, officials said.

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