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Past Moreno Valley council was corrupt - mayor

May 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The mayor of Moreno Valley testified before a grand jury to tell his side of the story in an ongoing corruption probe. He claims corruption was rampant in the past council, but not the current one.

Mayor Tom Owings arrived outside the federal courthouse in Riverside Wednesday, demanding that he be heard by the grand jury, who is looking into political corruption in the city.

Owings said he gave six hours of testimony, and their questions centered on campaign activities and the city's decision-making since 2008.

The mayor was not asked by the grand jury to testify, but said three of his associates were subpoenaed, and he felt that he should be heard too, so he brought a copy of the law allowing him to volunteer his testimony.

"I do not have a criminal attorney, and I don't intend to hire one. I've done nothing wrong," Owings said. "I am in office 120 days as mayor, and they don't even come and interview me, not even talk to me."

Last Tuesday, the FBI, IRS and investigators with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office raided Owings home and the homes of four other city council members in Moreno Valley. They also searched the home of a political contributor and the offices of Highland Fairview belonging to developer Iddo Benzeevi.

Investigators said the raids were part of an ongoing political corruption probe that included influence peddling and campaign violations.

With a binder in hand, Owings said he had evidence of past corruption he collected during his own internal investigation. He claimed past council members were guilty of pay-for-play schemes and should be investigated.

"I believe Iddo Benzeevi to be an honest developer. When an honest developer does business in a corrupt city, it's difficult, and our city is corrupt, not by me, not by the present council, by the past council," Owings said.

Owings said he is not in the pockets of any developers in his city, including Benzeevi, who is best known for his Sketchers warehouse that was built in Moreno Valley off the 60 Freeway.

The mayor said he is scheduled to continue his testify before the grand jury next Wednesday.


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