APRIL 13, 2007
One year after its mayor went to prison for embezzlement, five officials in a mostly Hispanic working class city have been charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost their salaries and pay for personal expenses, including an exotic dancer at a Guadalajara strip club.
Located in suburban Los Angeles County, Lynwood has a population of about 70,000 and a huge reputation as a public corruption hotbed. The former longtime mayor (Paul Richards) was sentenced to 16 years in prison last year for funneling millions of dollars in city contracts to a sham consulting company he secretly controlled. He was found guilty in federal court of money laundering, extortion and mail fraud.
This week county prosecutors indicted five current and former city council members for misappropriating at least $100,000 in public funds. The officials fraudulently paid themselves to attend city committee meetings and charged personal expenses to city credit cards. Some paid for their family trips abroad with taxpayer money.
One councilman, who is actually the mayor pro-tem (Fernando Pedroza), used a city credit card to pay $1,500 for an exotic dancer and a private room at a Mexican strip club during a conference in Guadalajara a few years ago. On his official council web site Pedroza stresses the importance of discipline and respect and mentions that he is a Catholic who lives happily in the city with his wife and two daughters.
The others charged in this week’s indictment are Lynwood Mayor Louis Byrd and former City Council members Armando Rea, Arturo Reyes and Ricardo Sanchez.
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