Bribery charges added in Sweetwater ‘pay-for-play’ case

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Bribery charges were added Friday against four current
and former Sweetwater Union High School District officials allegedly involved
in a “pay-for-play” culture with businesses awarded contracts for voter-approved bond projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Former Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara, along with trustees
Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones and 16-year former board member Greg Sandoval
were charged with accepting a bribe. They were originally charged in January
with perjury, filing a false document and other counts.

In March, construction company executive Henry Amigable admitted a
misdemeanor charge that he provided gifts, meals and tickets for entertainment
events to district officials to influence the school board's decisions in
granting construction contracts.

He is scheduled to be sentenced June 22.

The defendants' attorneys told Judge Michael Smyth today that District
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' use of the case in political ads — she is running for
mayor of San Diego — could influence a potential jury pool.

Smyth said he was uncomfortable issuing a gag order, as the defense had
requested, and set a January preliminary hearing date.

When the charges were first announced, Dumanis alleged that between 2008
and 2011, the defendants frequented San Diego-area restaurants, spending
hundreds of dollars on food and drinks, sometimes more than $1,000 per outing.
The defendants were also given Los Angeles Lakers playoff tickets, Rose Bowl
tickets and a trip to Napa Valley, she said.

For years, the public officials regularly accepted what amounted to
bribes in exchange for their votes on multimillion-dollar construction
projects, Dumanis alleged.

If convicted, Gandara, Quinones, Sandoval and Ricasa each face between
four and seven years in state prison.

Categories: KUSI