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Former Baldwin Park city attorney resigns from Rialto water district amid controversy – San Bernardino Sun

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Nearly a month after resigning as Baldwin Park’s city attorney amid a federal corruption probe in which he was implicated in a bribery scheme surrounding cannabis businesses, Robert Tafoya has resigned as general counsel at Rialto’s West Valley Water District.

Tafoya submitted his resignation via email to water district acting General Manager Van Jew about 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, a water district source said on condition of anonymity. Top water district officials declined to comment.

Tafoya, 60, of Covina resigned as Baldwin Park’s city attorney on Oct. 12 after nearly a decade in that post. His decision to step down came just days after he was implicated in a pay-to-play scheme with former Baldwin Park Councilman Ricardo Pacheco involving cannabis companies wanting to do business in the city.

That revelation was contained in federal documents pertaining to Pacheco’s plea agreement and unsealed with the Oct. 7 announcement that former San Bernardino County Planning Commissioner Gabriel Chavez had agreed to plead guilty to funneling bribes through his company to Pacheco in exchange for the councilman’s votes and influence in the Baldwin Park cannabis permitting process.

Election scheme

Those documents linked Pacheco and Tafoya to a scheme to help former Baldwin Park Police Chief Mike Taylor get elected to the water district’s board of directors in November 2017 in a quid pro quo exchange for Tafoya landing a contract as the district’s general counsel and Pacheco an assistant general manager.

From left, Michael Taylor and Ricardo Pacheco . (San Gabriel Valley Tribune file photos)
From left, Michael Taylor and Ricardo Pacheco . (San Gabriel Valley Tribune file photos)

A marijuana company owner wanting to do business in Baldwin Park contributed $10,000 to Taylor’s campaign, comprising nearly half of the more than $21,000 raised for Taylor during the election and most of all of which was made possible by Pacheco’s web of contacts who were trying to get business permits in Baldwin Park, according to the Department of Justice.

Tafoya, according to the DOJ, crafted hit piece mailers to disseminate during Taylor’s campaign.

Upon Taylor’s successful electon to the water district board, Taylor immediately brought an item before the board recommending Tafoya be retained as the district’s general counsel, which the board approved.

Taylor, according to the DOJ, subsequently coordinated with former board President Clifford Young, now deceased, to create an assistant general manager position for Pacheco paying him nearly $190,000 a year.

Taylor and Young resigned from the water district’s board of directors, Taylor on July 27 and Young on Jan. 3. Young died in August.

Taylor did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

Pacheco case

In an unrelated case, Pacheco agreed to plead guilty in June 2021 to a federal bribery charge for accepting $37,900 from an undercover police officer working as an FBI informant in return for voting in favor of the Baldwin Park Police Association’s 2018 contract with the city. Under his plea agreement, Pacheco agreed to continue cooperating in the federal investigation.

Neither Tafoya, Pacheco nor Taylor have been charged in connection with activities related to the West Valley Water District, which serves 82,000 customers in the communities of Bloomington, Colton, Fontana, Rialto, parts of unincorporated areas in San Bernardino, and Jurupa Valley in Riverside County.

While district officials would not comment on Tafoya’s resignation Friday, agency spokesperson Socorro Pantaleon said in October, when the allegations regarding Taylor, Tafoya and Pacheco were made public, that the district was “deeply disturbed” by the information.

SCNG investigation

The revelations follow an exhaustive yearlong investigation by the Southern California News Group that began in 2019 and included a review of more than 3,000 pages of financial documents and hundreds of pages of court records.

The investigation uncovered myriad problems within the district, including the employment of consultants without contracts, hiring managers and consultants with dubious backgrounds and legal difficulties, and the spending of more than $740,000 to settle lawsuits with former employees. The findings were later confirmed by a California State Controller’s Office audit.

Past legal woes

The federal allegations against Tafoya are the latest in a series leveled against the embattled lawyer in the last several years, some of them at the water district, where political in-fighting saw board members and administrators often clash.

Once allied with Taylor and Tafoya, Young sued Tafoya in February 2019, alleging he participated in bribery and kickback schemes involving other board members and contracted attorneys and consultants. Also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit were former Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis and former assistant board secretary Patricia Romero.

Young named Taylor and Pacheco as co-conspirators in the litigation, despite having supported Taylor in his 2017 election campaign and allegedly helping secure Tafoya’s and Pacheco’s employment contracts at the district.


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Peru: Police arrest president after Congress votes to remove him from power | World News

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Police in Peru have arrested the country’s president, Pedro Castillo, after Congress voted to remove him from power.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, the National Police of Peru said officers had “intervened”.

A photograph showed a man in a blue jacket sitting on a sofa – apparently Mr Castillo – but his eyes had been blacked out.

The tweet described him as “former president Pedro Castillo”.

Congress voted to remove Mr Castillo and replace him with Vice President Dina Boluarte after he tried to dissolve the legislature, the AP news agency reported.

Ms Boluarte, a 60-year-old lawyer, has since been sworn in as interim president. She becomes Peru’s first female leader.

Representatives voted 101-6, with 10 abstentions, to remove Mr Castillo from office for reasons of “permanent moral incapacity”.

Shortly before the ballot, Mr Castillo said he was installing a new emergency government and called for the next group of representatives to develop a new constitution.

During a televised address, he said he would rule by decree and ordered a nightly curfew starting on Wednesday night.

He also mooted changes in the leadership of the judiciary, police and constitutional court.

Politicians celebrate after voting to remove Pedro Castillo
Image:
Politicians celebrate after voting to remove Pedro Castillo

In response, the head of Peru’s army resigned, along with four ministers, including those responsible for foreign affairs and the economy.

Mr Castillo took his actions as his opponents in Congress moved towards a third attempt to remove him from office.

The Ombudsman’s Office, an independent government institution, said prior to the congressional vote that Mr Castillo should resign and present himself to judicial authorities.

Mr Castillo, a peasant-turned-president, has denied allegations of corruption against him, saying they are based on “hearsay statements by people who, seeking to lighten their own punishments for supposed crimes by abusing my confidence, are trying to involve me without evidence”.

Federal prosecutors are investigating six cases against him, most of them for alleged corruption.


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Anti-corruption groups, White House back money laundering bill in Congress

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By Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. anti-corruption groups are pushing Congress to attach sweeping new money-laundering rules to a year-end bill funding the government that lawmakers aim to pass in the coming weeks, according to aides and lobbyists.

The bipartisan measure, known as the ENABLERS Act, got a boost this week when the White House publicly came out in support of the bill.

“It’s going to really matter that the administration makes absolutely clear that this is a genuine serious priority for them,” Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said on Wednesday.

The measure would require professionals who handle money on behalf of clients – including investment managers and some lawyers – to conduct due diligence on the funds’ origins, as banks are typically required to do.

Boosters and opponents say the measure would be the most ambitious overhaul of the nation’s money laundering framework in at least 20 years.

“The ENABLERS Act is the U.S. anti-corruption community’s top priority right now,” said Scott Greytak, director of advocacy at Transparency International’s U.S. branch.

Supporters said they hope to attach the measure to a $1.5 trillion-plus “omnibus” funding bill. The initial deadline for that is Dec. 16, though lawmakers could extend it through a short-term continuing resolution, a possibility which appears increasingly likely.

Failing that, a standalone bill is possible next year, though that could be tougher in a divided Congress with a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Groups from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and elsewhere have thrown their support behind the measure, according to an October letter to congressional leaders seen by Reuters. These groups see ENABLERS as a way to cut illicit Russian capital out of the U.S. financial system.

Industry associations counter that it would create onerous requirements for small businesses who never cross paths with Russian oligarchs or narcotics kingpins. Bar associations argue that lawyers would be obligated to share potentially privileged information about their clients with the government.

Organizations that have lobbied against the bill, according to lobbying disclosures, include cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and auction house operator Sotheby’s.

Retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who has expressed skepticism about the measure, said it should not be tacked onto a spending bill – a legislative shortcut – and should instead be considered on a stand-alone basis.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Scott Malone and Stephen Coates)


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Khomotso Phahlane & five co-accused’s R54m tender fraud case postponed to March

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The authorities caught Phahlane and five others, including three former and current high profile police officials, in September.

FILE: They were arrested on charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravening the Public Finance Management Act. Picture: Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG – Former national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and his co-accused in the I-View Integrated Systems case will return to court in March 2023.

The authorities caught Phahlane and five others, including three former and current high-profile police officials, in September.

They were arrested on charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravening the Public Finance Management Act.

This was in connection with R54 million worth of dodgy police tenders for social media monitoring software and telephonic encryption services.

Investigating directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said the case was postponed to March.

“The 54 million corruption matter, which involves various high profile former senior police officials, including the likes of former national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, has been postponed to 10 March [2023]. This is a provisional date for pre-trial. The court also stated that the defence should send through requests for further particulars by 30 January.”




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