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Commerce Councilman arrested for corruption

April 1, 2010 12:37:01 AM PDT
Commerce City Council member Robert Fierro was arrested Thursday morning by FBI agents, after a grand jury indicted him and two family members in a scheme to conceal illegally reimbursed campaign contributions from a federal grand jury.Fierro, 39, is expected to make his initial appearance Thursday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles on Tuesday returned a four-count indictment that charges Fierro with conspiracy and witness tampering. The indictment also charges the councilman's wife, Linda Fierro, 36, and the councilman's sister-in-law, Ana Perez, 45, with conspiracy and witness tampering.

Perez, who served as the treasurer of Fierro's 2005 campaign, was also charged with two counts of making false declarations before the grand jury. Linda Fierro and Perez are expected to surrender to federal authorities on Friday.

The indictment alleges that Perez, other family members and friends of City Council candidate Fierro each wrote two $500 checks to Fierro's campaign in January 2005, when Fierro was first running for the office. According to the indictment, Fierro reimbursed the contributions by paying $1,000 in cash.

According to prosecutors, the reimbursements were designed to conceal both the true source of the campaign funds and the potential influences upon his actions as an elected official.

In early 2006, the FBI opened an investigation into allegations of illegal campaign contributions during the City Council campaign. The indictment alleges that Fierro contacted a friend in advance of his interview by the FBI and urged him not to tell the FBI that he had been reimbursed for his campaign contribution. The friend allegedly denied to the FBI that he received any reimbursement for his contributions.

The indictment also alleges that all three defendants met with potential grand jury witnesses to discuss questions to be posed by the grand jury, and how to explain $1,000 cash deposits made to their bank accounts.

In addition to the conspiracy and witness tampering counts, Perez is charged with two counts of making false declarations before the grand jury for lying to the panel about being reimbursed and lying about coordinating her story with Fierro.

If convicted of the charges in the indictment, all three defendants would face maximum statutory sentences of five years in prison for the conspiracy count and 10 years for the witness tampering count. If convicted of making false declarations before the grand jury, Perez would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count.