A former California mayor was sentenced to two years in prison Monday for taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a marijuana dispensary owner seeking permission to stay open.
Joseph Serrano, 62, one-time mayor of suburban Santa Fe Springs, could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted at trial.
Instead, he reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in July.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson also ordered Serrano to pay $10,000 in restitution to the FBI, which tapped the pot shop owner as an informant in the case.
Santa Fe Springs is a small industrial town about 20 miles south of Los Angeles.
In other bribery related news, a new wrinkle was recently added as California Supreme Court Associate Justice Ming W. Chin’s tenure has been shaken by revelations of alleged bribery by Edison International (“EIX”), Southern California Edison (“SCE”), and the law firm which represents them — Munger Tolles & Olson (“MTO”).
Fred Rowley of Munger Tolles & Olson who allegedly served as the middleman and conduit of bribes in his capacity as director of CAUSE. Once caught, Rowley conspired with Justice Chin, MTO, SCE, and others to defraud and mislead the California Commission on Judicial Performance. According to MTO, Rowley is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He also serves on the boards of directors of CAUSE, a non-profit that promotes Asian-Americans in politics. (image: courtesy of MTO)
A source familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, maintain that “overwhelming and undisputed” evidence shows that for a period of several years, both SCE and MTO poured large amounts of money into a questionable non-profit entity for which Justice Chin served as an official adviser, albeit secretly so.
The non-profit at issue is Pasadena-based Center for Asian-American United for Self Empowerment (“CAUSE”), which allegedly spends the money it collects for the purpose of voter-registration of API, as well as to lobby for furthering the appointments of APIs to various governmental positions.
While Justice Chin’s clandestine involvement with CAUSE began in approximately 2004, the source maintain the inquiry is focused on the years prior to the recent election by which Justice Chin was up for re-election, and during the time period one alleged wrongdoer – API Fred Rowley of MTO – served as the middleman and conduit of bribes in his capacity as director of CAUSE.
This, according to the source, creates not only the appearance of improprieties but actual misconduct as bestowing anything of value on a judicial officer by SEC and MTO to sponsor an entity which will register as many as APIs as possible who would, in turn, vote for the retention of Chin in the upcoming election, is prohibited.
As mentioned earlier, Justice Chin abruptly quit CAUSE in the midst of an inquiry by the California Commission on Judicial Performance subsequent to a complaint which alleged that Chin’s long-standing involvement with the entity — which caters exclusively to APIs — is prohibitive due to CAUSE’s invidious discrimination against those who are non-API. At that time, those were the only allegations lodged, and no mention was made of alleged improprieties by EIX, SCE, or MTO.
Following his abrupt departure, it is alleged that Justice Chin conspired with Fred Rowley, MTO, SCE, and others to defraud and mislead the California Commission on Judicial Performance as well as the public by creating the false impression that he was not an official adviser by causing the retroactive removal of his name from CAUSE’s web-site.
The reckless pursuit of easy money originating from utility companies by a handful of public servants who suppose to serve the public — rather than enrich themselves or their own racial groups — is slowly but surely destroying the reputation of California’s judicial branch and I call upon Justice Chin to resign, the source concluded.