Charges have been filed against five current and former Sweetwater school officials in a South Bay corruption case, according to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Former Superintendent Jesus Gandara, former board member Greg Sandoval, current board members Pearl Quinones and Arlie Ricasa and construction contracting executive Henry Amigable have all been charged with crimes.( Thu Mar 01 12:47:01 PST 2012 $__output )
Dumanis called it the largest public corruption case the DA's office has ever prosecuted.
Felony charges include bribery, perjury and influencing elected officials. Misdemeanor charges were also filed( Tue Dec 20 21:17:45 PST 2011 $__output )
If convicted, the maximum sentence would be four to seven years.
Gandara had the most charges with seven counts of felony and three misdemeanors. Amigable, whose company also allegedly made campaign contributions to board members, received two felony charges.( Tue Dec 20 21:09:11 PST 2011 $__output )
The yearlong investigation began when the DA office received multiple anonymous tips on the behavior of the past and present school board members.
Investigators are calling it a corrupt, "pay-to-play" bribery scheme, involving South Bay schools and college boards.
"For years, public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes in exchange for their votes on multi-million dollar construction projects," she said. “This case is outrageous and shameful.”
There are allegations of lavish meals, $1,000 bottles of wine, Southwest airline tickets, Lakers and Rose Bowl tickets that helped win multi-million dollar contracts for school construction.
Investigators from the DA’s office searched seven homes, including those of Quinones, Ricasa and Board Member Bertha Lopez. Investigators took computers, calendars and other records.
Dumanis repeatedly said during a press conference that the investigation is ongoing and additional charges or defendants could be possible.
The arraignment for Gandara, Sandoval, Ricasa, Quinones and Amigable is scheduled for Jan. 13.