The former mayor of South El Monte faces possible federal prison time when he is sentenced Wednesday for accepting at least $45,000 in bribes from a city contractor.
Luis Aguinaga, 49, admitted in his plea agreement that he took regular cash payments from 2005 to 2012, often in a City Hall bathroom. The long- running corruption scheme involved an unnamed contractor who provided construction and engineering services to the city.
Aguinaga, who was elected in 2003 to the South El Monte City Council, resigned as mayor in August and pleaded guilty the following month in Los Angeles federal court. He told investigators he took payoffs from the contractor every two to three weeks, shortly after the builder was paid by the city.
If the contractor failed to pay Aguinaga as expected, the then-mayor would call and remind him, federal prosecutors said.
At his initial court appearance, Aguinaga was allowed to remain free on a $20,000 bond.
In a letter to the judge, Aguinaga asked for a non-custodial sentence, saying he had allowed his “integrity to be compromised” as a result of pressure to contribute to community organizations.
Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of nearly four years behind bars, arguing that Aguinaga “epitomizes both the best and the worst in our society.”
Despite limited education, the former mayor “achieved the American dream and a relatively high-level of success.” However, in taking bribes, Aguinaga made governmental access available “for those who can pay for it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Pinkel wrote.
—City News Service
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