Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Calexico councilman charged for taking bribes in cannabis license scheme


A Calexico city councilman and a city commissioner were charged in federal court Thursday with taking bribes in exchange for promises to fast-track the licensing of a cannabis dispensary, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Councilman David Romero, 36, was next in line to be mayor of the Imperial County city, and Bruno Suarez Soto, 28, was recently appointed to the city’s Economic Development and Financial Advisory Commission. The two are accused of accepting $35,000, split between them, from an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of investors seeking to open the dispensary, according to charging documents filed in San Diego federal court.

The cash bribes were delivered in envelopes, handed to the pair in restaurant parking lots on two occasions, according to the charges.

The defendants were arraigned on bribery conspiracy charges on Thursday via video teleconference and released on $10,000 personal appearance bonds secured by their own signatures. They pleaded not guilty.

- Advertisement -

Prosecutors say Suarez and an unnamed family member of Romero set up RS Global Solutions, purporting to be a consulting firm. However, the company was a shell for Romero and Suarez to funnel their bribes, according to prosecutors.

The first meeting with the undercover agent occurred in December at a Calexico restaurant. Suarez claimed that he and Romero “guarantee the processing with the city” and that the $35,000 would give the dispensary a “top spot in the queue” of permit applicants, according to the charges.

Romero later explained that the money would have to be paid up front because other people they had done this kind of work for hadn’t followed through with payment, according to court documents. Suarez then added: “This isn’t our first rodeo,” the documents said.

The city officials then agreed to accept the bribe in two payments: one was delivered in envelopes in a hand-off on Jan. 9 outside an El Centro restaurant, and the rest on Jan. 30 in a similar rendezvous, prosecutors said.

- Advertisement -

The officials allegedly offered reassurances at both meetings. Romero explained to the undercover agent during one that the people who would have to approve the license were his “best friends at the entire City Hall,” according to court documents.

Romero also promised to hold up the permits of cannabis dispensary competitors, prosecutors said.

After cash exchanged hands the second time, FBI agents and federal task force investigators swarmed in and questioned Romero and Suarez, the charges allege. Both men denied making any promises to the undercover agent.

“Mr. Romero is a veteran who has served his country honorably, a civil servant who did his best to serve his community faithfully, and a father devoted to his family,” said Romero’s defense attorney, Anthony Colombo Jr. “We look forward to addressing the allegations in the future as the case progresses.”

Suarez’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

There are currently 13 active cannabis licensees — retail and distribution — in Calexico, according to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control.


Beam Suntory Inc. fined $19.6 million in foreign bribery case

Beam Suntory Inc. (Beam), a Chicago-based company that produces and sells distilled beverages, has agreed to pay a criminal monetary penalty of $19,572,885 to...

Julius Baer to deny two former CEOs their bonuses over money laundering scandal

Julius Baer will withhold millions of francs in bonuses from its former chief executives Boris Collardi and Bernhard Hodler, as a result of a...

Goldman Sachs executives to cover part payments of $3 billion fines in 1MDB scandal

Nine current or former Goldman Sachs executives, including CEO David Solomon, will have to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation over...

Goldman Sachs agrees $3 billion settlement with US DoJ over 1MDB corruption scandal

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay nearly $3bn (£2.3bn) in the US to end a probe of its role in Malaysia's 1MDB corruption scandal. The...

Hong Kong fines Goldman Sachs $350 million over 1MDB scandal

Goldman Sachs ignored multiple red flags over the multibillion-dollar fundraisings it arranged for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Hong Kong’s financial regulator said on...

Subscribe For More

Get our daily notification on the latest financial crimes news around the World


Latest News

This Week

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton fires top aide who accused him of bribery

Lacey Mase, one of the top aides who accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of crimes including bribery and abuse of office, has been fired, she told The...

Namibia probes oil firm Acer petroleum over bribes paid to government officials

THE mines and energy ministry says it is investigating allegations that an oil company bribed some senior officials to fast-track licence applications. The senior officials...

Australian court approves $920 million Westpac money laundering fine

The Federal Court of Australia has agreed on the deal struck between the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Westpac, ordering the Australian...

Actress Felicity Huffman complete full sentence for role in college admissions scam

Felicity Huffman has completed her full sentence for her involvement in the college admissions scandal. As of Sunday, she has finished her sentence, which included jail...

Adblock Detected!

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our website.

Enable Notifications    Ok No thanks