California mayor admits to taking bribes
July 29, 2016
The mayor of South El Monte plead guilty Thursday to taking bribes amounting to $45,000 from a contractor doing business with the city, as well as accepting a bribe during an FBI undercover operation.
Luis Aguinaga, 48, agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery. Aguinaga admitted that, from 2005 to September 2012, he took bribes from a contractor doing work for the City of South El Monte and the payments were rewards in connection with the approval of city contracts for the contractor.
The contractor – identified in the court documents as a confidential witness –paid Aguinaga envelopes filled with cash approximately every two to three weeks, shortly after the contractor was paid by the City of South El Monte, according to the plea agreement. If the contractor failed to pay Aguinaga within a few days of being paid by the City, Aguinaga would call and ask for his payment.
The bribe amounts were initially $500, and later they increased to $1,000. According to the plea agreement, the contractor made the bribe payments by placing cash in envelopes that were left in a bathroom at the South El Monte City Hall or were left inside the passenger side pocket of a car.
The plea agreement describes a Sept. 12, 2012 meeting monitored by the FBI where Aguinaga accepted a bribe:
“Defendant was nervous about meeting with the confidential witness because Cudahy city officials, including the mayor, had recently been arrested and charged with accepting bribes. While defendant was speaking with the confidential witness, defendant showed the witness his cell phone on which he had written ‘don’t talk’ or ‘don’t saying anything,’ and defendant asked the witness several times to accompany him to the bathroom. Once they went to the bathroom, the witness left an envelope with $2,000 cash on the counter near the sink. Defendant took the envelope containing the money and kept at least $1,000 for himself.”
The charge of bribery carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. Aguinaga is scheduled to appear for an arraignment in United States District Court in Los Angeles on Aug. 10.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ruth C. Pinkel of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.