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Former Baldwin Park councilman to plead guilty in bribery case, helps FBI with probe

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A former longtime member of the Baldwin Park City Council has agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes in exchange for his vote to ratify a police union’s contract with the city, authorities announced Wednesday.

Ricardo Pacheco, 58, was initially charged in March, but the case was kept secret as he began cooperating with the FBI in its continuing investigation of public corruption in the San Gabriel Valley, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. Pacheco, first elected to the council in 1997, resigned in June as part of his plea agreement.

In court files unsealed Tuesday, Pacheco admitted that he took $37,900 in bribes from a Baldwin Park police officer in 2018. Pacheco was serving as the city’s mayor pro tem at the time, and the officer was working undercover for the FBI.

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In return for the bribes, Pacheco voted in March 2018 in favor of a three-year labor contract for the Baldwin Park Police Assn. that was approved by the council and required the city to pay officers $4.4 million, the court papers say. A police union representative could not be reached for comment, and the officer who paid the bribes was not identified.

The bribes included $20,000 in cash that the officer gave Pacheco in an envelope at a Baldwin Park coffee shop, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The remaining $17,900 came in checks made out to Pacheco’s church and to sham political committees that he secretly controlled, prosecutors said.

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“Mr. Pacheco deeply regrets his actions,” said his lawyer, Glen Jonas. “He is making amends by accepting responsibility and cooperating with investigators.”

Pacheco agreed to forfeit $83,145 in cash seized by the FBI, including $62,900 that he had buried in his backyard and some money stashed in a safe in his bedroom, according to his plea agreement with prosecutors. Pacheco acquired that money through unspecified “illegal activity,” the plea agreement said.

Prosecutors blacked out a dozen pages of the plea agreement to conceal other aspects of the ongoing corruption investigation. The portions that were unsealed make reference to $219,755 in illegal proceeds that Pacheco has agreed to forfeit, but they do not specify the source of that money.

Pacheco’s lawyer declined to explain the illegal proceeds that Pacheco admitted receiving from unnamed sources.

Pacheco, who is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 2, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

He has long been a controversial figure in Baldwin Park. After a jury found him guilty of racial and sexual discrimination against the city’s former police chief in 2019, a critic of the councilman displayed huge banners outside his Ramona Boulevard business calling Pacheco a “fraud” and a “liar.”

The city then fined the critic, Albert Ehlers, more than $12,000 for failing to get a permit for the signs. Ehlers’ son Robert and the Baldwin Park Free Speech Coalition sued the city, arguing that the fines violated Ehler’s 1st Amendment right to free speech.

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The city’s newly elected Green Party mayor, Emmanuel Estrada, released a statement condemning corruption and pledging cooperation with investigators.

“I was not Mayor during the time these events occurred,” he said. “However, I am committed to rooting out corruption wherever it occurs and upholding the high standards of my office.”

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