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Sweetwater officials in court Allison K. Sampité | Fri, Jan 13 2012 12:00 PM

Four current and former Sweetwater high school district board members and one contractor are expected to be arraigned in San Diego Superior Court this afternoon on multiple criminal charges.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced 26 felony and eight misdemeanor charges against the five defendants at a press conference last week in an ongoing South Bay corruption investigation.

“Today’s charges begin the process of holding those officials accountable for their actions on behalf of the taxpayers,” Dumanis said last week.

Charges include perjury, filing a false statement, influencing an elected official and bribery.

Dumanis said the case is the largest of its kind in San Diego County and called the case “an excellent example of our office’s commitment to prosecuting public integrity cases.”

The maximum sentencing for defendants if they are convicted includes up to four and seven years in state prison as well as fines.

Last month, former Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Jesus Gandara, former district board member Greg Sandoval, school board trustees Arlie Ricasa-Bagaporo and Pearl Quinones and contractor Henry Amigable had their homes raided by DA investigators.

“We proceed carefully on these cases and, often, the public isn’t aware of the work we’re doing behind the scenes,” Dumanis stated in a Monday press release. “Information from the public is one way these investigations first come to our attention.”

In April, a handful of community members presented the DA with complaints about the defendants.
Dumanis said the defendants were involved in “pay-for-play” with businesses that were awarded voter-approved bond contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Taxpayers, parents and students deserve better,” she said.

According to the investigation by the DA’s Office, the defendants received tens of thousands of dollars in drinks, food, hotel stays and entertainment from Amigable between 2008 and 2011.

Dumanis said board members “traded their votes for bribes.”

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