Two former Calexico officials, including an ex-councilman, were sentenced in San Diego Wednesday to federal prison for trying to bribe an undercover FBI agent in exchange for a marijuana dispensary permit, according to federal prosecutors.
David Romero, 37, a former Calexico city councilman, and Bruno Suarez-Soto, 29, the city's former commissioner for economic development, were sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California, which they pleaded guilty to in June 2020.
Romero and Suarez-Soto unwittingly accepted $35,000 in cash from an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an investor seeking to open a marijuana dispensary in Calexico, according to their plea agreements. In exchange, they said they would "guarantee" a city permit, prosecutors said.
The undercover agent and the two city officials met three times.
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Prosecutors said the pair assured the agent that they wouldn’t “disappear” after the payment, and Romero explained “I can’t [disappear]. I’m Mayor Pro Tem. In July, I’ll be Mayor. If anything, I ran based on this platform, which is cannabis.”
Both men also said they had taken bribes from others in the past, with Soto telling the FBI agent: “This isn’t our first rodeo,” according to court documents.
Calexico has a population of around 40,000 and is located in Imperial County on the U.S.-Mexico border.
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