Ex-LA utility head admits taking bribes in billing scandal

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The former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has agreed to plead guilty to bribery in a corruption scandal

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LOS ANGELES – The former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – the nation’s largest public utility – has agreed to plead guilty to bribery in a corruption scandal triggered by an automated billing disaster that caused exorbitant bills. with ratepayers, federal prosecutors said Monday.

David Wright, 62, admitted in court papers that he planned with a lawyer hired to help resolve the billing fiasco and through a three-year $30 million no-bid contract for a company created by the attorney. Pushed secretly from, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

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The statement said the Department of Water and Electricity approved the contract in June 2017, but Wright did not disclose whether he would be retiring and joining the company as CEO in a $1 million per year salary and a luxury car. planning to be.

Wright’s attorney, Anthony Pacheco, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday evening.

Wright, who is serving a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, is to appear in court on Friday.

The statement from federal prosecutors said prosecutors signed the plea agreement last month before announcing charges against attorney Paul Paradis, whose company received the no-bid contract.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti fired Wright from his job in 2019 after the FBI raided the Department of Water and Electricity and other offices in the city months before his expected departure date.

Paradis last week agreed to plead guilty to a bribery case. He was hired by the city attorney’s office in a billing disaster, leaving hundreds of thousands of utility customers with exorbitantly high bills.

Prosecutors said Wright instructed Paradis to destroy the offensive emails and text messages, after secretly cooperating with the FBI, prosecutors said in the statement.

At one point, Paradis gives Wright’s erased cellphone and “burner” cellphone to use in a “secret dead-drop maneuver” so they can continue to communicate.

In 2019, Wright urged the Water and Electricity Department’s board to award a new $10 million cybersecurity contract to another Paradis company, the statement said.

Wright did not tell board members about his previous arrangement with attorneys or a new agreement where Wright would receive a “substantial sign-on bonus” of $600,000 or $1.2 million in addition to an increase in company ownership, in the statement. Having said.

Prosecutors also said in the statement that Wright also suggested that he begin secretly working for Paradis’ company, before retiring from the water and electricity department, calling Paradis his “ATM.”

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