CORRUPT: City Manager, Ex-Assembly Member Among 4 Charged In LA Public Embezzlement Scheme

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Tres Hermanos Ranch, the site of a proposed solar project at the heart of a public corruption case. Photo credit: Change.org via Times of San Diego

City of Industry, CA. – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Friday that four men have been charged in connection with the embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars that were supposed to be used to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be purchased by the City of Industry.

“Public corruption erodes the trust of our citizenry and hampers progress,” District Attorney Gascón said. “There is no place for it in Los Angeles County.”

William Barkett, Anthony Bouza, Paul Jule Philips and Frank Hill were charged in a 12-count felony complaint.

Barkett faces one count each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft. Bouza faces eight counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity and one count of misappropriation of public funds. Philips faces one count of misappropriation of public funds, while Hill faces two counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.

Between 2016 and 2018, the City of Industry entered into a land lease agreement with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC to examine a possible solar farm. As part of the deal, the city agreed to advance certain costs that had to be repaid if construction began on a solar farm.

Philips, the city’s former city manager and Bouza, an attorney hired by the city and a private contractor who allegedly helped draft an agreement, handled the funds.

During that time, roughly $20 million in public funds was allegedly routed to an account controlled by Barkett, who owned SGVWP.

While some of the money was paid to other vendors, Barkett is accused of spending about $8.3 million on personal items. He also allegedly falsified or altered invoices to inflate the amount.

Bouza and Hill, also a private contractor who was retained by the city and a former state assemblymember, are accused of having a financial conflict of interest when they allegedly drafted or influenced contracts with the city.

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