LA Building Officials Arrested for Allegedly Taking Bribes in FBI Sting

Two senior inspectors were arrested Friday morning

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    A financial exchange involving an LA building inspector and an FBI agent is caught on camera.

    Updated at 4:45 p.m.

    Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena, was arraigned in federal court on Friday and released on $100,000 bail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick denied bail to Hugo Joel Gonzales, 49, of Eagle Rock, who was taken into custody.


    LA Building Officials Arrested for Allegedly Taking Bribes

    [LA] LA Building Officials Arrested for Allegedly Taking Bribes
    Two senior building inspectors were arrested Friday morning for allegedly accepting bribes to sign off on building permits without inspections.

    Updated at 3:50 p.m. 

    Press release from the Department of Building and Safety in response to the FBI sting and arrests:

    In early January 2011, the Department of Building and Safety received an anonymous letter alleging criminal misconduct on the part of at least two inspectors.

    Immediately, Inspection managers began a preliminary investigation of 53 sample projects involving such things as approvals without physical inspections. Based upon consultation with the City Attorney enough preliminary evidence was found to place the employees on administrative leave effective February 28, 2011 pending due process for disciplinary action. The inspectors placed on administrative leave surrendered their badges, computers and were directed to remain at their homes during work hours.

    Subsequently, the City Attorney’s Office advised the Department of Building and Safety to continue with the administrative process and has also referred the matter to the City Attorney’s Criminal Division. Approximately two weeks ago, the Department was advised that the Criminal Division had referred the matter to LAPD.

    All of the Department of Building and Safety’s actions were taken prior to any knowledge of FBI involvement.

    Building and Safety General Manager, Bud Ovrom, said “The Department of Building and Safety has a zero tolerance policy on such matters. We appreciate the involvement of the FBI, but we were already far down the road on this investigation before we learned of the FBI’s involvement. Because of the economy and budget cuts, we laid off 49 inspectors during the last eighteen months. These former employees and others would certainly want these excellent city jobs. This department has many good people and we are not going to put up with any employee who does not meet the Department’s standards of professional conduct.”

    For any additional questions, please contact the Department's Public Information Officer, Mr. David Lara, at (213) 792-6060.


     Updated at 3:24 p.m.

    Residents with information about building inspectors or other officials accepting bribes can contact the FBI field office at 310-477-6565 or email reportbribes@ic.fbi.gov

    See the full report at 6 p.m. on NBC, channel 4. 


    Updated at 2:41 p.m.

    Photo gallery of sting operation that led to the arrest of two LA building inspectors.


    Updated at 11:25 a.m.

    "The inspectors were arrested on federal bribery charges for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes to aprpove work done at residential construction sites in South Los Angeles," according to a press release (pdf) issued by the US. Attorney, Central District of California. 

    "Allegations of corruption breach the public trust on many levels," Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles said in the release. "Evidence in this case highlights the ease with which the defendants accepted bribes."

    The undercover investigation began last summer with the help of an informant described as a site supervisor. The bribes included the full range of inspections.

    One of the inspectors who was arrested, Raoul Joseph Germain, allegedly told an agent in a recorded conversation, "I drive by every once in a  while, take a look, I won't even stop and get off." 


    Updated at 11:05 a.m.:

    Raoul Joseph Germain,59, of Altadena and Hugo Joel Gonzales, 49, of Eagle Rock,  "corruptly solicited, demanded, accepted, and agreed to accept monetary bribe payments," according to the affadavits (pdf and second pdf). Gonzalez allegedly accepted $9,000 in bribes. Germain allegedly accepted $6,000 in bribes.


    Original story, posted at 10:26 a.m.:

    Two senior building inspectors were arrested Friday morning for allegedly accepting bribes to sign off on building permits without inspections.

    The arrests stem from an eight-month undercover investigation conducted by the U .S . Attorney’s Public Corruption division and the FBI.

    The U.S. Attorney’s office received a tip from an informant that on at least 40 occasions he had bribed two senior inspectors with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. The bribes included cash, vacations and home improvement projects, according to a source who spoke to NBC LA.

    The bribes were allegedly given to the inspectors in exchange for signing off on permits for residential building projects that had not been inspected. 

    The FBI set up a sting with the U.S. Attorney's office. The Feds sent in an undercover agent posing as a contractor.

    The government alleges the inspectors took $15,000 in bribes in exchange for signing off on permits for work that was never inspected

    The inspectors face federal bribery charges and will be arraigned on Friday .

    Check back for details and updates throughout the day.