A retired Los Angeles building inspector was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison resulting from a federal investigation into bribe-taking at the Department of Building and Safety.
U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson also ordered Samuel In, a 37-year city employee who retired in 2011, to pay $30,000 to the city of Los Angeles. In, who pleaded guilty to felony bribery last year, is one of five former Building and Safety employees to face either criminal charges or dismissal as a result of the bribery probe.
Addressing the courtroom, In pleaded for a second chance, saying he would not make the same mistakes again. "I have disgraced my family and myself," he said, his voice choked with emotion.
Pregerson said In, a longtime community volunteer, had done some "good deeds" and provided some restitution to people who had given him bribes. Those acts, however, were not sufficient to outweigh three and a half years of corruption, Pregerson said.
"We have to do everything we can to ensure our system has integrity," he said.
In's guilty plea stems from an incident in which he took $5,000 from a Koreatown businessman. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted to accepting at least $30,000 worth of bribes involving at least a dozen properties that he handled as a city employee between March 2007 and December 2010. All were in or near Koreatown.
The FBI launched an undercover sting operation focusing on Building and Safety in 2010, capturing two inspectors on tape as they accepted cash from people seeking permits. Both men pleaded guilty and received prison sentences. Two other department employees were dismissed in connection with the city's internal investigation of wrongdoing.
Corruption allegations have also reached the city's Housing Department in recent years. A Korean-speaking clerk was convicted of bribery and accused of taking money from immigrants dealing with code enforcement woes.
In's plea agreement depicted him as someone who took monetary payments from Korean-speaking business people who struggled both with English and the city's complex permitting process.
Harold Greenberg, In's attorney, called Monday's sentence unfair, saying his client had already suffered the loss of his reputation, dignity and "respect in the community." Assistant U.S. Atty. Maggie Carter countered that In retired after the bribery investigation became public and is now receiving a "substantial pension."
"It's important to send a message that this defendant is not merely getting a slap on the wrist," she said.
Officials with the City Employees' Retirement System did not immediately respond to a request to disclose the amount of In's pension.