A 40-year-old Commerce City Councilman pleaded guilty in federal court to obstructing an investigation into his campaign finance scheme.
Robert Fierro pleaded guilty to the felony charge Wednesday before United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.
His plea comes on the heels of his sister-in-law and campaign treasurer, Ana Perez, 46, pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge related to her conduct in the scheme.
Fierro and Perez are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gutierrez on April 23.
They each face up to five years in federal prison.
“Fierro and his co-conspirators’ attempts to obstruct a federal investigation and the federal grand jury process amount to direct assaults on the integrity of the American judicial system,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “We will be always be vigilant in holding those accountable for compromising the integrity of the judicial system.”
The scheme took place during the 2004-2005 City of Commerce election campaign, Fierro recruited family and friends to make contributions to his campaign, with Fierro secretly reimbursing the value of the contributions in cash, according to court documents.
Fierro never disclosed the contributions or reimbursements to the state of California or on his campaign’s finance records.
According to Perez’s plea agreement, Robert Fierro collected and reimbursed illegal contributions on behalf of his campaign.
In one case, Perez wrote a $500 check to Fierro’s campaign, and another $500 check to the campaign of his running mate.
Fierro reimbursed Perez with a $1,000 cash payment the following day, court documents state.
In the spring of 2006, Fierro, his wife, and Perez learned that the FBI was conducting an investigation into the illegal-reimbursement scheme.
During an interview with the FBI, Perez denied she received a reimbursement for her $1,000 contribution, according to her plea agreement.
Soon thereafter, Perez and others received subpoenas to testify before a grand jury looking into the scheme.
In June 2006, Fierro, his wife, and Perez scheduled a meeting with contributors who had received subpoenas and attempted to convince them to falsely testify that they were not reimbursed for their contributions, according to Perez’s plea agreement.
In July 2006, Perez appeared before a federal grand jury and falsely testified that she was not reimbursed for her contributions in 2005 and that she did not participate in the June 2006 meeting, court documents state.
Fierro’s wife – Linda Fierro, who was named in an indictment along with her husband and Perez – is currently scheduled to go on trial on March 20.
Fierro was arrested on April 1, 2010, after a grand jury indicted him.
A federal grand jury had been investigating allegations of political corruption in the city, which sits just east of downtown Los Angeles.
Fierro, who was a full-time elementary school teacher in the LA Unified district, was a two-term City Councilman, who was first elected in 2005.
He has worked as a probation officer for the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
Prior to serving on the City Council, he was recognized by the Los Angeles Police Department for his volunteer work with the Department’s Southwest Division and awarded the Crime Prevention Award from California State University, Los Angeles, for volunteer work, according to the Commerce website.
Fierro and his wife Linda, also a teacher, have four children.