Sweetwater District Board Member Pearl Quinones Pleads Guilty In Corruption Case
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
A Sweetwater Union High School District board member accused in a corruption case pleaded guilty Tuesday and will leave office.
Pearl Quinones was one of 15 people indicted and accused of accepting gifts in exchange for votes on construction contracts. She initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Quinones pleaded guilty to one felony count -- conspiracy to commit a crime, specifically the acceptance by any member of the governing board of any valuable thing, with corrupt intent.
Additionally, she pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of accepting gifts with a total value of more than $250, according to Schorr.
As part of her guilty plea, Quinones will be removed from office. She also could be fined up to $10,000.
Her punishment may include jail time, home confinement and probation, but that will be determined by a judge at a later date.
Quinones, ex-Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Jesus Gandara, former trustee Greg Sandoval and board member Arlie Ricasa were charged in 2012 in connection with the alleged "pay for play" scheme.
Also charged in indictments were board members James Cartmill and Bertha Lopez, as well as San Ysidro School District Superintendent Manuel Paul and former Southwestern College Superintendent and President Raj Chopra. Cartmill, Lopez, Paul and Chopra were also charged with bribery, perjury and other counts.
For years, the public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes -- trips, fancy dinners -- in exchange for their votes on multimillion-dollar construction projects, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis alleged.
In March 2012, construction company executive Henry Amigable admitted to a misdemeanor charge that he provided gifts, meals and tickets for entertainment events to district officials to influence the school board's decisions on construction contracts. He was sentenced to three years probation.
"We're going to go all the way through this and we're going to win. We're going to fight and we're going to win this case because I'm innocent," Quinones said after an April 2013 hearing.