Friday, January 13, 2012
Five people -- including the ex-superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District -- are scheduled to be arraigned today in what prosecutors call the largest public corruption case of its kind in San Diego County.
Accused of bribery, perjury and other crimes are former district Superintendent Jesus Gandara, trustees Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones, 16-year former board member Greg Sandoval, and Henry Amigable, a contractor who worked for a construction company hired by the school district.
All were allegedly involved in a "pay-for-play'' culture with businesses that were awarded contracts for voter-approved bond projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Between 2008 and 2011, the defendants frequented San Diego-area restaurants, spending hundreds of dollars on food and drinks, sometimes more than $1,000 per outing, Dumanis said. The defendants were also given Los Angeles Lakers playoff tickets, Rose Bowl tickets and a trip to Napa Valley, she said.
Dumanis said the investigation has been going on for a year.
She said for years, the public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes in exchange for their votes on multimillion-dollar construction projects.
Gandara, Sandoval, Quinones and Ricasa are charged with perjury, filing a false document and other charges. Amigable is charged with giving or offering a bribe.
If convicted, the defendants face between four and seven years in state prison.