Third Cudahy official to plead guilty in corruption case

A former Cudahy councilman agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to bribery and extortion, the third city official to admit guilt in a wide-ranging federal probe into corruption in the southeast Los Angeles County town.

Osvaldo Conde, who was arrested last month after a five-hour standoff with FBI agents, admitted that he solicited and accepted bribes totaling $17,000 from the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary who wanted to open shop in the city.

Former Mayor David Silva and Angel Perales, who served as interim city manager of the small, working-class city, had already made deals to plead guilty to extortion and bribery in a case that exposed graft, vote rigging and drug use at Cudahy City Hall.

All three have resigned, leaving the city with only three council members as the federal investigation continues.

The owner of the marijuana dispensary also was an FBI informant who secretly recorded conversations for authorities in which city officials discussed the bribes and other corruption in the city.

“Mr. Conde regrets his actions and the damage that he caused to the public’s trust in their government and to his family,” said his attorney, George Bird. “He will be entering a guilty plea as he takes responsibility for what he has done. It’s the right thing to do.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Akrotirianakis said the investigation is continuing but would not provide details. A federal grand jury has been meeting on the case.

Also nabbed in the investigation was Santa Fe Springs Councilman Joseph Serrano Sr., who admitted that he took $11,500 in bribes to fight off attempts to close marijuana dispensaries in that city.

Conde, who resigned from the council Wednesday, was elected in 1999. He and Silva were among the council members who appointed their colleague and former city janitor George Perez as city manager. Perez, who served in his post for more than a decade, had little administrative experience and no college degree. He was ultimately fired without explanation.

Documents previously released by prosecutors portray a city government steeped in corruption, where people wanting to do business were routinely forced to pay bribes. Documents mention a police officer who tipped off city officials to massage parlor raids, drug runs to round up narcotics for use at City Hall, cash passed to city officials in a shoe box, and fixed council elections.

Among those mentioned as orchestrating some of the schemes is a former city official identified only as “G.P.” Akrotirianakis would not confirm whether “G.P.” stands for George Perez.

Cudahy still has three council members, enough for a quorum. The council must decide whether to fill the vacant seats through a special election or by appointment.

“Hopefully this puts an end to the dark era in the history of Cudahy,” Councilman Josue Barrios said. “We can start creating true genuine accountability and transparency to the residents of our community.”

Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.