LOS ANGELES, Calif.–One of two Los Angeles building inspectors caught in a government sting allegedly taking bribes pleaded not guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars for signing off on construction work he never inspected, prosecutors said.
A June 14 trial date was set for Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock, who faces one count of bribery involving programs that receive federal funds, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph N. Akrotirianakis.
Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena, previously agreed to plead guilty to the same charge at a May 5 hearing, the prosecutor said.
According to his plea agreement, Germain acknowledged accepting four $1,500 bribes, then signing inspection forms for four houses in South Los Angeles, even though he never set foot on two of the properties.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, Akrotirianakis said.
Gonzalez faces the same punishment if convicted of accepting $9,000 in bribes in exchange for permit approvals on residential construction projects.
According to criminal complaints in the case, the FBI began an undercover investigation of the inspectors last summer, after an informant cameforward to allege that city of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety inspectors took cash bribes in exchange for permits.
The informant, described in court documents as a worksite supervisor for a property developer, alleged that Gonzalez and Germain accepted bribes at the initial inspection stage of construction at the properties, and that the bribes covered all construction inspections related to that property, including final inspection.
The affidavit in support of the case against Gonzalez describes how the informant, and then an undercover agent posing as a residential construction contractor, allegedly gave cash to Gonzalez beginning last summer.
According to court documents, Germain said in a recorded conversation with an undercover agent, “I drive by every once in a while, take a look, I won’t even stop and get off.”
Both inspectors are on administrative leave, according to a Department of Building and Safety spokesman.