Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sweetwater probe nets first jail sentence; Former Sweetwater board member gets 45 days

See all posts re South Bay Indictments.

Sweetwater probe nets first jail sentence
Former Sweetwater board member gets 45 days
By Greg Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune
June 20, 2014

Gregory Sandoval, a former Sweetwater schools trustee, on Friday became the first defendant in the South County schools corruption probe to be sentenced to jail for accepting fancy meals and other gifts from contractors seeking business with the district.
Sandoval, who is also a former administrator at Southwestern College, pleaded guilty in April to a felony conspiracy charge and a misdemeanor charge of failing to report gifts he received from school construction executives on required disclosure forms in 2008.
Superior Court Judge Ana Espana sentenced Sandoval to six months in custody. She ordered him to serve 45 days of that in jail, and serve the remaining 135 days on home detention.
He was also fined $7,995, ordered to perform 120 hours of community service and put on probation for three years.
Espana denied a request from Sandoval’s lawyer to reduce the felony to a lesser misdemeanor. She also ordered him into jail custody immediately, to begin his sentence.
Sandoval, 60, is one of 18 trustees, school officials and contractors who were charged in an expansive probe into the cozy relationships between school officials and the contractors angling for work funded by voter-approved bond programs.
The investigation focused on Sweetwater Union High School District but also included officials from Southwestern College and the San Ysidro School District.
Most have pleaded guilty and received sentences of probation or home detention, as well as fines and community service work.
But prosecutors with the San Diego County District Attorney’s office said that Sandoval was one of more corrupt of the defendants, receiving lots of gifts and meals.
For example Jaime Ortiz, a construction management executive with the firm SGI that was involved in the construction work, testified in front of a grand jury empaneled for the case that Sandoval demands for dinners and being treated to other social events was “constant.”
One time Ortiz said Sandoval called him when Ortiz was in SGI offices in Los Angeles and said he wanted to meet. He said he wanted to go to a luau at a Pacific Beach hotel that evening. Ortiz boarded a plane for the short flight then paid for the dinners for himself, his wife and Sandoval and his wife.
Sandoval was initially indicted on 29 charges including bribery and perjury. He ended up admitting in his plea deal to accepting $2,770 in gifts from another contractor, Henry Amigable, and not reporting those gifts on his state-mandated economic disclosure forms.
Jeremy Warren, one of his lawyers, said in court papers that Sandoval accepted responsibility for his acts. He said at the time of the wining and dining Sandoval recently had lost his job at the college in the wake of sexual harassment accusation that he was later cleared of, but he remained a Sweetwater trustee. Warren said he was at a low point in his life when he began being courted by Amigable and others.
In 2010 Sandoval got a new job as an administrator at Moreno Valley College, but resigned from that $151,811 job after his guilty plea in April.

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