California City officials accused of taking bribes to illegally open a cannabis dispensary
According to the US Department of Justice, Calexico’s mayor pro tem and the California councilman were detained after receiving a bribe from a secret agent. According to a preliminary investigation, city officials repeatedly extorted bribes from businessmen to issue necessary permits and documents.
“David Romero 36, and Bruno Suarez Soto, 28, both of Calexico, California, accepted $35,000 in cash bribes from an undercover FBI agent who they believed represented investors seeking to open a cannabis dispensary in Calexico. In return, Romero and Soto “guaranteed” the rapid issuance of a city permit for the dispensary, and to revoke or hinder other applicants if necessary to ensure that the bribe payer’s application was successful. Moreover, both men admitted they had taken bribes from others in the past, according to the charging document,” the statement said.
The indictment documents also say that the defendants offered to free the "sponsors" from the competition and not consider applications from other people. Federal agents indicated in their testimony that Soto and Romero had assured the front agent that this amount was final and that there would be no additional “contributions” because “This isn’t our first rodeo,” Soto said.
It is reported that the meeting at which the funds were transferred took place on January 9th. At the meeting, half of the assigned amount was transferred. According to the agreement, the bribe was divided into two parts, as a guarantee that officials will keep their word and provide all necessary documents.
The arrest of the suspects took place on January 30th. Immediately after the arrest, both suspects denied involvement in corruption.
Trial Attorney Joshua Rothstein of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Pilchak are prosecuting the case.