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FBI probing 2007, 2009 council elections in Cudahy for alleged pattern of intimidation

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POSTED July 4, 2012 7:16 p.m.


CUDAHY  (AP) — Documents related to a federal corruption investigation in the small Southern California town of Cudahy indicate that local officials believed they could control the outcome of elections, while two former candidates allege a pattern of intimidation.

Transcripts of wiretaps include a conversation in which officials talked about how a former city manager had hand-picked council members he could "manipulate," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Luis Garcia and Daniel Cota told the Times that after they announced their intention to run for Cudahy council in 2007, their cars were vandalized with buckets of paint. Garcia and Cota said they suspected city employees followed them as they campaigned house-to-house. It was the first contested council race in nearly a decade, and they lost by a few dozen votes.

When they ran again two years later, Garcia said rocks and bricks were tossed at the windows of his home. Later, a surveillance camera on Garcia's property captured a man hurling a Molotov cocktail at the house.

"If it had gone through the window into my house, it would have burned with my kids and wife inside," Garcia told the Times.

The elections in 2007 and 2009 are now being investigated by the FBI, which has subpoenaed documents from the Cudahy city clerk. The FBI declined to reveal specifics about the probe in the working-class, predominantly Latino town of 25,000.

Three city officials — including Councilman Osvaldo Conde and Mayor David Silva — were arrested last month on charges of taking bribes from the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary seeking to open in the city. Silva stepped down Tuesday.

On another transcript, Angel Perales — the city's code enforcement director and the third official arrested last month — appeared to brag about engineering the results of the 2007 election. Perales said he could turn to "60, 70 people" to get Conde re-elected or cast aside.

Conde "would've lost by a 120 votes," if Perales hadn't taken action, he told an FBI informant.

In one of the wiretapped conversations, a Cudahy employee spoke about the lengths to which he would go to protect his boss, Conde. Federal prosecutors said the pistol-packing code enforcement worker described "his willingness to commit acts of violence against anyone who" meddled with Conde.

Calls to lawyers for Perales and Silva were not returned.

Conde's attorney, Charles C. Brown, said he couldn't comment at length about the allegations.

"These are very serious allegations, and our office is going to do its very best to protect Mr. Conde's rights and make sure he gets a fair trial, and that his side of the story is told," Brown told the Times.


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