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Corruption case targets 11 in small Los Angeles County city

February 4, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the County of Los Angeles, incoming Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks after he was sworn in a virtual ceremony in downtown Los Angeles. Gascon announced on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, that a former mayor of the tiny Los Angeles County city of Maywood and 10 other people have been charged in a "pay- to play" public corruption case. (Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP, File)
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the County of Los Angeles, incoming Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks after he was sworn in a virtual ceremony in downtown Los Angeles. Gascon announced on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, that a former mayor of the tiny Los Angeles County city of Maywood and 10 other people have been charged in a "pay- to play" public corruption case. (Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former mayor of the tiny Los Angeles County city of Maywood and 10 other people have been charged in a “pay- to play” public corruption case, District Attorney George Gascón announced Thursday.

The charges involving the 1.1-square-mile (2.85-square-kilometer) city of about 26,000 residents are reminiscent of a scandal a decade ago in the neighboring city of Bell.

Ramon Medina, a former mayor and councilmember, was charged with soliciting bribes, conspiracy, embezzlement, failing to file campaign statements, grand theft, misappropriation of public funds and other crimes.

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A request for comment was left for his attorney in a prior case, Anthony Willoughby.

“Public officials should be working to benefit the people, not their own bank accounts,” Gascón said in a statement. “Pay-to-play politics have no place in Los Angeles County and we are all deserving of a clean government.”

The 34-count complaint alleges widespread corruption over a three-year period.

Medina, 61, sought and received bribes from several of co-defendants who wanted to gain favor and do business in Maywood, which outsourced many city services to private vendors, the district attorney’s press release said.

Other defendants include a former city manager and building and planning director.

The alleged schemes include attempts to sell affordable housing redevelopment properties for less than half of market value to a buyer who would build a bingo hall.

Other allegations involve solicitation of bribes for the recall of a council member, use of public funds for construction projects on private properties, directing city staff to void parking tickets for friends and having gamecocks and cockfighting paraphernalia.

Bell, the next-door city, was the center of a 2010 corruption investigation into allegations that officials gave themselves enormous salaries and benefits and illegally raised taxes.

Seven Bell officials, including a former mayor, city administrator and council members, were convicted of various charges.