Former South El Monte mayor pleads guilty to bribery

Former South El Monte mayor pleads guilty to bribery

Former Mayor of South El Monte Luis Aguinaga entered a guilty plea to one count of bribery in an appearance before a federal judge. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19.

In a plea agreement filed on July 29 in the United States District Court, Aguinaga said that he accepted bribes from a contractor 2005 to 2012, totaling $45,000. Court documents did not identify this contractor, who cooperated with investigators. They made payments to Aguinaga every two to three weeks. The plea agreement also said that he would call to ask for money if payments were late.

Sting Operation

The FBI caught Aguinaga during an operation on Sep. 12, 2012. That day, he met with the contractor at the Ramada Inn in South El Monte. The contractor left an envelope with $2,000 cash on a restroom counter, which Aguinaga took, officials said. He also gave money to an unnamed South El Monte official, documents allege.  

Aguinaga was nervous during this operation, according to court documents. The Mayor of Cudahy had been arrested on bribery charges a few weeks prior.

“This long-running corruption scheme compromised the effective governance of South El Monte,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The residents of South El Monte deserve better.”

The former mayor, who was elected in 2003 to the South El Monte City Council, submitted his resignation on Aug. 9. The bribery count carries a maximum 10-year federal prison sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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