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Former Sweetwater Superintendent Gets Jail In ‘Pay-To-Play’ Corruption Scandal

Jesus Gandara appears in court on Friday, April 4, 2014.
Jesus Gandara appears in court on Friday, April 4, 2014.

A former Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent was sentenced Friday to more than seven months in jail for his role in a "pay-to-play" scandal and political corruption probe in South County.

Jesus Gandara, 57, pleaded guilty in April to a felony conspiracy charge and a misdemeanor count of failing to report gifts. Superior Court Judge Ana Espana sentenced Gandara to 220 days in jail and placed him on three years' probation.

Gandara was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody.


He was among 15 people indicted in 2012 in a probe into a "pay-to-play" culture between contractors and officials from three school districts.

When the case was filed, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that for years public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes — trips, dinners and tickets — in exchange for their votes on multimillion-dollar construction projects.

Construction company executive Henry Amigable pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for providing gifts to school board members to influence their votes. A number of other defendants — including former Sweetwater school board members Arlie Ricasa, Greg Sandoval and Pearl Quinones — have also pleaded guilty.

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