Thomas Peters, who until 2019 was one of the highest-ranking officials in LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, formally entered a guilty plea in federal court in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday in connection with the FBI’s investigation of corruption inside the LA Department of Water and Power.
In a plea agreement, Peters admitted to a single count of aiding or abetting extortion, stemming from a failed 2017 effort to conceal from judges and the public the City’s legal misconduct in handling the lawsuits that followed the botched 2013 rollout of a new billing computer system that issued wildly excessive bills to tens of thousands of LA residents and businesses.
The crime carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison, but Peters was expected to receive far less time when he's sentenced later this year.
Peters’ defense attorney, Jeff Rutherford, has declined to comment on the case, but said in open court at a hearing earlier this year his client continues to cooperate with authorities in the ongoing investigation.
According to court documents filed by federal prosecutors, Peters met with other, “senior members of the City Attorney’s Office,” on Dec. 1, 2017 to discuss paying-off an unnamed blackmailer, who had threatened to reveal that attorneys working for the City had improperly worked on both sides of a class-action ratepayer lawsuit that sought to recoup excessive power and water bills collected by the DWP.
On Monday, the I-Team reported that City Attorney Mike Feuer had been scheduled to attend that Dec. 1, 2017 meeting.
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Feuer’s spokesman, Rob Wilcox, said Feuer didn’t remember attending but the day’s calendar suggested Feuer was there. Feuer has denied knowledge of the legal malfeasance or coverup attempts, and has maintained he only learned of the misconduct in early 2019.
Peters is the fourth person to plead guilty as a result of the DWP corruption probe.
Federal prosecutors have declined to comment on the case, other than saying it's an ongoing investigation.