Liberal officials supposed to be watching out for the interests of California’s City of Industry were busted in connection with “the embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars.” The days of getting away with fudging the books are long gone. Today’s technology brings both omnipresent surveillance cameras and full audit accountability for every bank account. Four white collar criminals thought they could latch on to the hyperbole surrounding climate change to rake in some serious cash for themselves. It didn’t work.
Fingers of officials in the till
Flamingly liberal Democrat District Attorney George Gascón was happy to announce that Los Angeles prosecutors will actually press charges against some criminals for a change. These officials weren’t caught looting, rioting or burning anything so they won’t get a free pass and Antifa won’t be bailing them out.
Four men who serve public positions with the City of Industry diverted millions earmarked “to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be purchased by the City of Industry.” The Tres Hermanos Ranch.
He didn’t even flinch as he scolded that public “corruption erodes the trust of our citizenry and hampers progress. There is no place for it in Los Angeles County.”
The 12-count felony complaint names former officials William Barkett, Anthony Bouza, Paul Jule Philips and Frank Hill. “Between 2016 and 2018, the City of Industry entered into a land lease” that turned out to be a really sweet deal for the defendants.
Barkett is looking at counts for “misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft.” Bouza “faces eight counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity and one count of misappropriation of public funds.”
As court documents allege of the remaining officials, “Philips faces one count of misappropriation of public funds, while Hill faces two counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.”
Millions on ‘personal items’
Nobody said a word when the officials got the deal approved to set up a sunshine farm. The deal was so sweet it even provided that the city would “advance certain costs that had to be repaid if construction began.”
Philips was the former city manager. He got together with Bouza who’s “an attorney hired by the city.” They brought in “a private contractor who allegedly helped draft an agreement,” and “handled the funds.” The contractor was Hill.
City officials funneled $20 million in public funds over two years. The money was “allegedly routed to an account controlled by Barkett, who owned SGVWP.” That’s the local power company, San Gabriel Valley Water and Power.
Some of the money actually went to legitimate vendors, mostly as a smokescreen. The insiders shaved off some for themselves. “Barkett is accused of spending about $8.3 million on personal items. He also allegedly falsified or altered invoices to inflate the amount.” Good old fashioned account padding and kickback schemes.
The greedy administrators “began working on the solar project in secret in late 2015 with the first lease signed the following year in a closed session meeting supposedly related to potential litigation.” Nobody in the public heard a word about the project until a year later. “The 2,450 acres of ranch land were originally purchased by Industry in the 1970s, but the city never used it for anything other than as a retreat for city officials and as grazing pastures for their livestock.”
Solar panels “on the unspoiled land” drew “immediate outrage, controversy and a slew of lawsuits.” That’s when the suspicious invoices surfaced. An investigation “later found irregularities in Barkett’s invoices and ledgers, including payments to a shuttered law firm owed money by Barkett and to other companies he controlled.”