The Watch Dog: Moreno Valley Councilman Accepts Biggest Undercover Bribe

By Derek Obregon

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Posted November 8, 2013 in Web Only
R_CO_1106_SLAWhat is up with politicians in the Inland Empire these days and when will they learn that if you don’t play by the rules, you will get caught? My guess is never because no matter how many scandals/bribes/dirty politician stories come out, there will always be more.

At least if you’re going to risk your job and play dirty, make it worthwhile.

That’s exactly what a former Moreno Valley councilman, Marcelo Co, did when he accepted a bribe that federal officials say could be the largest bribe ever accepted by a public official in an undercover operation; $2.36 million.

We may not have the smartest politicians, but at least this one tried to set a new record.

The bribe was allegedly taken in exchange for voting in favor of land-use decisions that would benefit a businessman (AKA the undercover FBI agent) posing as a real estate broker.

According to the federal complaint, Co was going to sell a 30-acre parcel of property, which was appraised at $710,000, for $3 million on public documents and accept $2.36 million in cash. This was after he would use his “voting control” of the city council to change the zoning of the property to increase the value of that land.

On Jan. 30, Co was videotaped and photographed accepting the bribe.

He also took $5,000 and $10,000 in campaign contributions to fund other campaign council members who voted with him on the land use issues.

Co is the only one facing charges, but search warrants were issued for the homes of Moreno Valley council members Jesse Molina, Victoria Baca and Mayor Tom Owings, said Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman, John Hall.

Co plans on pleading guilty to a charge of bribery and submitting a false corporate tax return because he also admitted that his corporation, Qwick Pack Systems, received $112,098 of gross business receipts that were unreported on corporate tax returns in 2010.

He faces a potential 13 years in federal prison and is scheduled to appear in court next month.

He was on the Moreno Valley City Council from November 2010 until he resigned in August for unrelated charges of welfare fraud.

It seems like the Inland Empire has so much of this corruption going on that it needs its own task force to keep up with all of the corruption . . . oh wait, there is one!

The case was investigated by the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force, which has people from numerous counties and federal law enforcement agencies on it. Its job is to investigate corruption among Inland Empire public officials.

This elite team of corruption busting individuals has investigated corruption at the San Bernardino International Airport (which resulted in charges filed against former airport developer Scot Spencer) and the former Upland City Manager, Robb Quincey (charged with misappropriation of public funds and other crimes).

So watch out all you dirty politicians—if you don’t play by the rules, the IRCTF could soon be knocking at your door.


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