Former Maywood officials plead not guilty in corruption case

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A former Maywood city councilman, city manager and building and planning director pleaded not guilty June 14 to a long list of corruption counts.

Former Councilman Ramon Medina, former City Manager Reuben Martinez and former Building and Planning Director David Mango were charged in February along with eight other men — in a 34-count criminal complaint alleging widespread corruption, including soliciting and receiving bribes, misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement over a three-year period. The other defendants also pleaded not guilty.

All were ordered to return to court on July 15, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Medina, 61, is facing six counts of soliciting a bribe, three counts each of conspiracy to commit a crime, embezzlement and failing to file campaign statements, two counts each of grand theft, misappropriation of public funds and perjury under oath, and one count of failure to report behested payments.

Medina is accused of seeking and receiving bribes from several of his co-defendants, who allegedly sought to gain favor and do business in one of Los Angeles County’s smallest and most densely populated cities, according to a statement released by the District Attorney’s Office.

The District Attorney’s Office also alleges that Medina, along with Martinez and Mango, tried several times to sell three redevelopment properties owned by the city and intended for affordable housing for less than half of their fair-market value — for use as a charitable bingo hall.

The three men allegedly authorized Felipe Velarde, a general maintenance contractor, to complete construction projects — including building handicap ramps and driveways on private properties and installing speed bumps on streets — that did not meet industry standards and do repair work at Mango’s Studio City home.

The trio allegedly used public funds to pay Velarde for the work, which prosecutors said was done between September 2016 and June 2018.

Medina is also accused of directing Martinez and other city employees to void or dismiss parking tickets that had been issued to his friends and supporters, soliciting bribes from a prospective buyer of the bingo hall to recall a Maywood council member and, with his son, Ramon Medina Jr., of having more than 40 gamecocks and paraphernalia used to train the birds for cock fighting.

Martinez, 58, is charged with two counts each of conspiracy and grand theft and three counts each of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.

Mango, 58, is charged with two counts each of conspiracy, grand theft, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.

The other defendants charged in connection with the probe are:

• Velarde, 61, who is charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts each of grand theft, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.

The ex-councilman’s 32-year-old son, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess gamecocks for fighting purposes.

Bingo hall promoter George Del Junco, 71, who is charged with two counts of conspiracy and one count of bribing an executive officer.

Del Junco’s business associate, Paul Garcia, 58, who is charged with three counts of bribing an executive officer.

Hector Castillo, 73, who runs an engineering firm and is charged with two counts of embezzlement and one count each of conspiracy, bribing an executive officer and grand theft.

• Disc jockey George Tello Ramirez, 57, who is charged with one count of soliciting a bribe.

• Recall proponent Felipe Aguirre, 69, who is charged with two misdemeanor counts of failing to file campaign statements.

• And political consultant Mario Beltran, 44, who is charged with one count of filing false or fraudulent recall petitions.

No one is above the law. Public officials should be working to benefit the people, not their own bank accounts,” District Attorney George Gascón said when the charges were first announced. Pay-to-play politics have no place in Los Angeles County and we are all deserving of a clean government.”

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