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Building inspector who accepted bribes gets 18 months in prison

A building inspector caught up in a federal sting investigation of bribe-taking at Los Angeles City Hall was sentenced Monday to a year and a half in prison.

Hugo Gonzalez, 49, was caught accepting $9,000 in bribes for permits involving several construction sites in South L.A. He was the second inspector to be sentenced for bribery this year.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder ordered Gonzalez to pay back the $9,000 he received. Gonzalez offered no statement to the court before he was sentenced.

Gonzalez was recorded demanding payment from both an undercover FBI agent and a confidential informant. That informant told investigators that bribes were “systemic” at the Department of Building and Safety, where Gonzalez worked.

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At one point, Gonzalez was recorded saying that he wanted to kill the employee of a real estate developer with whom he was dealing and then flee to Mexico, according to an affidavit filed by investigators. “They would never find me,” he said in the secretly videotaped exchange.

In another recording, Gonzalez said via phone that he was in Colima, Mexico, and needed a bribe to be deposited directly into his Wells Fargo account. In a third, Gonzalez said he would need to pay off another inspector before he could receive permission to accept a bribe from someone with a project outside his inspection territory.

The case is part of a larger investigation into the city’s Department of Building and Safety. A federal grand jury sent the agency a subpoena in April seeking personnel records on a dozen employees, including Gonzalez and Raoul Germain, 60. Germain was sentenced to 21 months in prison last week.

Two other Building and Safety employees have been fired as a result of an internal city investigation into bribe-taking. One of them, Frank Rojas, has filed an appeal of his termination with the city’s Civil Service Commission.

david.zahniser@latimes.com


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