Officials charged under the cannabis bribery program in Calexico City, California
Charges have been brought against Calexico City, California City Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem David Romero, and Commissioner Bruno Suarez-Soto of alleged involvement in a cannabis bribery program in which they accepted monetary bribes in exchange for favors local cannabis companies.
It was done via videoconference, and although the two were charged, they were released on $ 10,000 bonds for personal appearance. However, you will have to go to court again on July 2 to receive a conviction.
The cannabis bribery program
According to the official charges, the FBI alleges that Romero and Suarez-Soto took bribes of $ 35,000 from undercover FBI agents trying to fight corruption in the city. In return for that money, Romero and Suarez-Soto apparently guaranteed that the city would quickly and definitely secure a pharmacy license, even if that meant revoking other licenses or getting in the way of other applicants. Both also admitted taking other bribes in the past, claiming, “This is not our first rodeo.”
This is no small scandal considering that Councilor Romero was about to become the next mayor of Calexico. If this accusation of being part of a cannabis bribery program hadn’t come up, he would have become mayor last July. Suarez-Soto was a member of the city commission that deals with growing businesses and communities, including working with potential developers to promote the city’s economy and infrastructure.
“Officials must act honestly and with integrity when doing business with the public,” said US attorney Robert Brewer. “If citizens don’t meet these standards, we will. We claim these defendants traded their trusts and sold the integrity of the government for thousands of dollars. We will vigorously enforce the law when an official puts his own greed before the interests of his constituents. “
“Public corruption remains the FBI’s top criminal priority. Because of this, the FBI in San Diego and Imperial Counties has a solid public corruption program dedicated to exposing the criminal behavior of officials, ”said acting FBI-SAC Omer Meisel. “The investigation of Mr. Romero and Mr. Suarez-Soto is another example of the FBI’s commitment to accountability to those who serve the public and who hold positions of trust.”
According to the official report on the cannabis bribery program, they met with the undercover agents in a restaurant in Calexico in 2019. They agreed to expedite the application for a pharmacy license and, in exchange for the $ 35,000 bribe, pledged to defer authorizations for other interested parties if necessary to keep the pharmacy for the Undercover officers operate.
Then later, when asked if they needed more than the $ 350,000 to get it, they claimed not to.
“This is done. Set and sealed,” Romero allegedly said. However, they made sure the money was prepaid because they had done this previously with others who had not paid and then favors were given so that they Wanted to ensure payment, and they eventually agreed to accept two payments, one in advance and one “when it is safe”.
Romero also claimed that he had ins to make things happen because those who would approve licenses were his “best friends across town hall”. When asked if his friends had already opted out and agreed, he replied, “Fuck yeah!” The deal was sealed when the undercover agent Suarez-Soto actually handed over US $ 17,500 in cash, stating that the bribe was for each of them them was split into USD 8,800.
Now both men are accused of lied to the FBI when they were interviewed, denied being part of those agreements, actually accepted the bribe, and pointed to previous bribes and further corruption. After these allegations, things don’t look good for Romero and Suarez-Soto.