School Officials Accepted Thousands in Gifts: DA

Lavish meals, sporting events tickets and more given to school board officials

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    NBC San Diego
    The homes of three school board members were raided Dec. 20 by DA investigators.

    Investigators are calling it a corrupt, "pay-to-play" bribery scheme, involving South Bay schools and college boards.

    Allegations of lavish meals, $100 bottles of wine, and Rose Bowl tickets that helped win multi-million dollar contracts for school construction.

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    Three Sweetwater Union High School District board members' homes were raided Tuesday, possibly in connection with a lawsuit between the district and a construction company with which the district terminated a contract. (Published Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011)

    According to search warrants made public today, one school board member got tickets to Padres, Chargers, Angels and Lakers games -- sometimes in the stadium's private suite -- plus two nights at the Biltmore Hotel in Pasadena and tickets to the Rose Bowl.

    Last week, investigators from the District Attorney's office searched seven homes. The targets include three members of the Sweetwater Union High School District: Pearl Quinones, Bertha Lopez and Arlie Ricasa.

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    Three Sweetwater Union High School District board members' homes were raided Tuesday, in addition to a construction company executive. (Published Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011)

    Investigators took computers, calendars and other records, but would not disclose the reason for those raids.

    These search warrants, unsealed Tuesday in Superior Court, provide new details about an alleged felony bribery scheme involving a construction company executive who pursued school administrators and board members with gifts, in return for their approval of school construction projects.

    One investigator calls it a "corrupt pay-for-play culture" that tarnished the Sweetwater Union School District, and Southwest College, in Chula Vista.

    At the center of the alleged scam is Henry Amigable, who worked for Gilbane/SGI construction management.

    Investigators say he spent thousands of dollars on food and wine for school board members, including a $1,700 restaurant meal.

    Amigable's company also allegedly made campaign contributions to board members, to get the inside track on business, and spent more than $2,000 on theater tickets and dinner for South Bay board members and administrators, including former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara.

    Gilbane Construction also allegedly paid a $1,000 beauty pageant fee, for Gandara's daughter, and a $500 beauty pageant scholarship for the daughter of former Sweetwater board president, Greg Sandoval.

    Sandoval allegedly got those tickets to sporting events in San Diego and Los Angeles, and the New Year's eve hotel stay in Pasadena.

    According to the search warrant, Sandoval "had his hand out for gifts so often, even employees from the construction company remarked that he has no shame."