The FBI is investigating corruption at the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, which is now suspected to be deeper than originally thought.
Two inspectors in the last weeks pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges for taking thousands of dollars in bribes to approve work done at residential construction sites in South Los Angeles, despite ever having conducted the inspection.
49-year-old Hugo Joel Gonzalez and 59-year-old Raoul Joseph Germain both admitted to accepting cash bribes from an undercover FBI agent and are expected to be sentenced in the following months.
Last summer, the FBI had received a tip from an informant about corruption in the Department of Building and Safety, that inspectors took bribes in exchange for permit approvals on residential construction projects.
Court documents state that building inspectors accepted bribe payments at the initial inspection stage of construction at residential properties and that the bribes covered all necessary construction inspections related to that property, including final inspection.
Now agents are investigating the inspectors' supervisers since the leak of a confidential memo by General Manager Robert Ovrom on May 10, which was supposed to be sent to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa but accidentally sent to hundreds of Building and Safety employees.
According to a copy of the memo obtained by the Times, Ovrom writes that the department was not always providing adequate training, and that It is bad enough that these incidents happened. It is perhaps even worse that our supervisors never caught this blatant illegal activity.
The federal grand jury has ordered the Building and Safety department to turn over personnel records for 12 current and former employees as they probe deeper into the corruption.