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Gabriel Chavez of Upland pleaded guilty to laundering $170,000 in bribes between a Baldwin Park city councilmember and two marijuana companies. The unidentified companies hoped to gain Baldwin Park marijuana permits.

Chavez was elected to the San Bernardino County Planning Commission in June, 2018, but resigned in November, 2018, after the FBI searched his home.

The bribed councilmember, Ricardo Pacheco, served on Baldwin Park’s council since 1997, and as mayor pro-tem in 2018, the plea agreement says.

He resigned in June, 2021.

Pacheco also agreed to a plea agreement related to his accepted bribes. He began soliciting bribe payments from companies seeking marijuana development agreements and related permits after Baldwin Park began permitting the sale, cultivation and manufacture of marijuana around June, 2017, the plea agreement says.

Chavez accepted bribe payments to Pacheco through his Claremont company, Market Share Media Agency, and then split the money with the councilmember, the plea agreement said.

“(A) company seeking a marijuana permit would pay the intermediary for supposed ‘consulting’ services, the intermediary would then split a portion of the money with Pacheco, and Pacheco would then vote in favor of the company’s desired marijuana permit in exchange for the payment,” the plea agreement says.

One company paid $125,000 in bribes, out of an agreed $190,000, and a second paid $45,000, out of an agreed $250,000, the agreement says. Out of that combined $170,000, Chavez paid Pacheco around $85,000. Chavez kept the remaining $85,000 as payment for facilitating the bribe.

Pacheco voted in favor of those companies’ conditional marijuana permits.

Pacheco approached Chavez to take part in the scheme, the agreement says.

The plea agreement also claims Commerce’s city manager, Edgar Cisneros, who was unnamed but identified by job title, was the CEO and the representative for an unnamed marketing company that also laundered a bribe to Pacheco. Cisneros’ company funneled $45,000 from a marijuana company to Chavez’s company, the plea agreement said.

“As both (Chavez) and (Cisneros) knew, (Cisneros’ company’s) payments to Market Share Media Agency were bribe payments for Pacheco disguised to look like legitimate consulting fees, including through the use of bogus invoices,” the agreement says.

Cisneros also awarded Market Share Media Agency with a $14,500 no-bid contract with Huntington Park, which the city paid out before the company completed its services, the agreement said. Cisneros also donated $5,000 to the church associated with Pacheco’s child’s school.

Case information

Case number 2:22-cr-00462.

Read the indictment here.

Read the plea deal here.

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