California Officials Sentenced to Prison in Cannabis Bribery Scheme

Two former city officials for Calexico, California were sentenced to two years in federal prison for accepting bribes related to cannabis licensing.

Full story after the jump.

A pair of former officials for Calexico, California were sentenced to two years in federal prison in San Diego for accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI agent, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

The pair pled guilty in June 2020 on conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. The former officials — David Romero, a former Calexico, California city councilman and winning candidate for mayor, and Bruno Suarez-Soto, the former Commissioner of Economic Development for the small town east of San Diego — believed they were accepting $35,000 in exchange for a cannabis dispensary permit. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California said the men “guaranteed” the agent the permit and admitted to accepting other bribes, bragging to the agent at one point, “This isn’t our first rodeo.”

According to charging documents, the two men assured the agent they would follow through, telling them they would not “disappear.”

“I can’t [disappear]. I’m Mayor Pro Tem. In July, I’ll be Mayor. If anything, I ran based on this platform, which is cannabis.” — David Romero, quoted in charging documents

Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in the press release, “Public office is a public trust. Anyone who violates that trust by selling the government’s business to satisfy their own greed should face a reckoning. Citizens of this district deserve no less.”

In the plea, the men acknowledged they received a second cash payment of $17,000 in January 2020 and the money was intended to “influence” their duties as Calexico officials. They went on to admit the $35,000 payment was not their first bribe. Both men were interviewed after the second payment and warned making false statements was a crime and both lied repeatedly to agents about their involvement in the scheme, U.S. Attorneys revealed in the press release.

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