Two former California city officials were sentenced Wednesday to two years of imprisonment after taking bribes for issuing a commercial cannabis dispensary permit.
David Romero, 37, a former Calexico city councilman and Bruno Suarez-Soto, 29, a former commissioner on the city’s Economic Development and Financial Advisory Commission admitted to accepting $35,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent, according to a press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Former Calexico City Councilman David Romero and Bruno Suarez-Soto, a former city commissioner, pleaded guilty to corruption charges, admitting that they accepted cash bribes in exchange for promises of official action by the city. #PublicCorruptionhttps://t.co/GxT5upwser
— FBI San Diego (@FBISanDiego) June 12, 2020
The undercover agent reportedly pretended to be an investor seeking to obtain a city permit in order to open a cannabis dispensary. The former officials guaranteed rapid issuance of the permit, promising to “revoke or hinder other applicants, if necessary, to ensure that the bribe payer’s application was successful,” according to DOJ. (RELATED: Sen. Chuck Schumer Shares A Message For Those Celebrating 4/20)
Romero and Soto alluded to having taken similar bribes in the past, telling the undercover FBI agent, “this isn’t our first rodeo,” the DOJ said in a June 2020 statement. The defendants reportedly admitted to their past corruption involvement in a plea agreement.
Prior to resignation, Romero also served as Calexico’s Mayor Pro Tem, meaning he was scheduled to become the mayor of Calexico in July 2020.
“David Romero was about to become the highest-ranking public official in the city of Calexico, but he and his partner-in-crime sold their power and influence to the highest bidder in a secret pay-to-play scheme,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said, according to DOJ. “They are the ones who will pay now.”