Former county official to plead guilty to cannabis bribe scheme

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A former Southern California county official will admit he paid bribes through his company to a councilman in exchange for votes and influence councilman in the city’s cannabis licensing process, federal prosecutors said.

Gabriel Chavez, a former San Bernardino County planning commissioner, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The politician who solicited the bribes — former Baldwin Park City Councilman Ricardo Pacheco — pleaded guilty in June 2021 to a federal bribery charge. Pacheco resigned from the board last year and is awaiting sentencing.

After Baldwin Park began licensing legal cannabis stores in 2017, Pacheco began soliciting bribes from marijuana companies seeking municipal permits, according to Chavez’s plea agreement.

Chavez agreed to act as an intermediary to route those bribes to Pacheco using his Claremont-based Internet marketing company, Market Share Media Agency, prosecutors said.

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The pair agreed that Pacheco would receive 60% of the companies’ kickback money while Chavez would keep the rest as payment primarily to facilitate the kickbacks, according to court documents.

Chavez resigned from the San Bernardino County Planning Commission in November 2018 after the FBI executed a search warrant at his home.

Chavez is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks. A federal bribery charge generally carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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