D.A. Serves Warrants on Lynwood City Officials
Wave Community Newspapers
By MARCY SANTANA, Staff Writer 12.MAY.04
LYNWOOD — Residents visiting City Hall Tuesday found it closed for the day after investigators from
the county District Attorney’s Office served current and former city officials with a series of search
warrants there and at their homes.
It was unclear exactly what investigators were searching for, but according to Sandy Gibbons,
spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, evidence was recovered at each location searched.
The investigation is being conducted by the D.A.’s Public Integrity Division for allegations of public
corruption or crimes committed by public officials.
Rumors of the raid being deployed by a combination of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office are false,
said Gibbons. “It is my understanding that they are conducting investigations in Lynwood on their
own,” she said. “This investigation is completely separate from what they are doing. There is a federal
investigation and there is a state investigation. We have conducted the state one.”
Laura Bosley, a spokesperson for the FBI in Los Angeles, and Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S.
Attorney’s office, both said that by law they could not deny or confirm any investigation either office
may be conducting.
In Tuesday’s raid, approximately seven warrants were served. Investigators arrived at City Hall at 7 a.
m. Tuesday and raided the offices of City Manager Lorre Hempe and City Clerk Andrea Hooper, among
others. They also arrived at the homes of Lynwood Mayor Louis Byrd and Councilmen Fernando
Pedroza and Ramon Rodriguez.
Warrants also were served at the homes of former Councilmen Paul Richards and Arturo Reyes, and to
former City Manager Faustin Gonzalez, according to Gibbons. Investigators also raided a house in Las
Vegas belonging to Byrd and a warrant also was served to the Atlantic Avenue hardware store owned
by Councilman Rodriguez.
Councilmembers Maria Teresa Santillan and Leticia Vasquez were the only two members of the City
Council who were not served with search warrants.
City Hall employees were detained by investigators for hours, questioned and then released. City Hall
remained closed for the rest of the day, inconveniencing residents attempting to drop off utility
payments and with other city business to conduct.
The investigation centers around the use of public funds by city officials for travel to fancy resorts,
online purchases, expensive meals and other personal expenses. Current and former officials,
however, say that the expenses were reimbursed unless they were related to city business.
A review of last year’s credit-card statements confirmed that Byrd used a city-issued credit card to
purchase airline tickets to Hawaii, that lPedroza used a city credit card to pay for a lavish dinner and
show during a visit to Rio de Janeiro and that Reyes also used a city credit card to purchase airline
tickets and jewelry for his wife.
Gibbons would not disclose what was sought during the search, but Rodriguez said that he believed
investigators were looking for documents, pay stubs, checks, warrants, tax papers, statements and
Rodriguez, one of the council’s newest members, along with Santillan and Vasquez, was served with a
warrant because he is suspect
However, Rodriguez said he knows he hasn’t done anything wrong.
Rodriguez has owned his business for more than 13 years and has sold merchandise to city
temployees for most of that time. Since elected to the City Council, Rodriguez said he has never asked
the city for any special favors regarding his business. The only thing taken from the Rodriguez home
was an old CPU, the councilman said, belonged to his children but was never used by himself or his
wife, Guadalupe Rodriguez, a school board member.
Gibbons declined to say whether arrests would occur anytime soon.
“Usually, these things take time,” she said. “We served search warrants to all the areas we felt would
further our investigations, so we won’t know if there will be any arrests until our investigations are
complete. It could be a few days, it could be a few weeks, or it could be a few months.”
According to Mayor Byrd, who lives on Agnes Street, authorities kicked in his door and pointed guns at
his head. He was home with his wife, his granddaughter and a few guests from out of town, he said.
“What they did [angered me],” said Byrd about the early morning raid. “They went through everything
trying to find something to convict me on. I had no idea that they could act in such a manner. They
searched City Hall and they even broke into my house in Las Vegas. They had to call me in order to
get a code for the alarm system there. It was extreme. The way they acted, I didn’t have much
respect for them before, but now it’s less.”
Investigators took a lot of paper work, according to Byrd. “I told them they could take everything, I
didn’t care,” he said. “I’ve been serving this city for more than 12 years, and I was recently elected for
another four, but now I’m discouraged. I’ve always tried to do the right thing. I’ve worked my whole
life for the city government and the school system, and this is how I’m treated ... it’s incredible.”
When told about Byrd’s complaint of investigators’ forceful actions, Gibbons said investigators have
the authority to forcibly enter homes and that they are armed. But, she said that doesn’t sound like
any procedure followed in Tuesday’s raid.
One 20-year resident of the city who requested anonymity, wasn’t surprised by the investigation.
“So much money belonging to the city, belonging to the taxpayers has been abused by almost every
politician we’ve had come and go and stay in our city government,” he said. “I’m glad they are not
being paid wages in the $100,000 anymore. We could have used the money that they were getting,
and we would already have our parks and all of our streets re-paved because they all need it.
“It isn’t fair that these politicians are able to live stress-free lives on our account, and living the life of
luxury using our money, when we, the community live paycheck to paycheck. I’m glad someone finally
spoke up and made the call to authorities. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
According to another source, investigators were also looking for paper trails leading to kickbacks from
companies doing business with the city and for deals city officials have made with city employees who
have other business ventures outside their duties.
City Hall was open for business as usual Wednesday.
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