BY BRIAN HEWS • October 29, 2020, 10:50 a.m.
Hews Media Group-Cerritos News has obtained a civil racketeering influence and corruption lawsuit filed against the city of Maywood, Maywood Mayor Eddie De La Riva, Reyna Mendez and Carmen Perez.
The lawsuit also alleges several other violations including defamation, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence related to Jose Mendoza and his company L.A. Labs, which is a cannabis testing corporation.
And in the most explosive charge, Mendoza alleges that Mayor De La Riva attempted to extort $350,000 from him to open the business.
Mendoza first applied for a permit in September 2018, and paid over $34,000 for a five year lease for a building on Slauson in Maywood.
Mendoza did the customary things a business owner must do and started attending council meetings and meeting with council people, even having lunch with Mayor De La Riva and Mayor pro tem Ricardo Lara who expressed excitement about the project.
Mendoza obtained all necessary permits, but then Chair of the Maywood Planning Commission Carmen Perez and Vice Chair Reyna Mendez got involved in the extortion scheme.
Mendez visited a business owner next to the proposed lab and told the owner that it was going to be a marijuana dispensary not a testing lab.
Mendez also requested that the business owner show up at a planning commission meeting to criticize Mendoza.
City staff recommended that they allow the permit by the planning commission but the approval was put on hold when Mendez falsely stated she had talked to businesses in the area and they did not approve.
Mendoza then proceeded to educate all the business owners in the area and obtain approval signatures.
De La Riva later texted him writing, “that was a bad move,” and then attempted to extort the $350,000 from Mendoza in September of 2019.
Texts between De La Riva and Mendoza “that mmove you made was a bad move,” texted De La Riva.
The lawsuit alleged, “Mendoza was cleaning the front yard at his mother-in-law’s home. Mendoza had been living at this location at the time. While in the front yard, to Mendoza’s astonishment, a Latino man between twenty-nine and thirty-four years old, wearing a white t-shirt, black hat and pants, and white shoes approached Mendoza and stated, ‘We need three hundred and fifty thousand dollars to move your project forward.’ The man indicated by pointing toward a black Honda Accord without plates across the street. The tinted window of the car rolled down and Mendoza recognized the face of Mayor Eddie De La Riva. Mendoza waived at Mayor De La Riva, but De La Riva did not waive back. At that moment, Mendoza knew the request for money serious and he had just been given a demand for money.”
Chair Perez, Vice Chair Mendez and Mayor De La Riva kept up the pressure, intimidating Mendoza while once again falsely stating to the business owners in the area that the lab was a dispensary.
In late September 2019, despite answering all their questions and concerns, Mendoza’s permit was denied by the planning commission, but he was able to attend a council meeting and address concerns in a last ditch effort to obtain approval.
Councilman Heber Marquez then jumped on the corruption bandwagon saying at a council meeting he was “concerned about the parking.”
Mendoza’s business does not require parking, instead, there would’ve been increased parking because a retail business was located in his building prior to him leasing the property.
At the end, Marquez, Lara, and De La Riva all voted no leaving Mendoza no choice but to file his case.
The lawsuit slammed all involved with fifteen violations including intentional interference, extortion, defamation, and slander on the part of Mendez and Perez; fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of Councilman Marquez; RICO and extortion against all defendants.
Mendoza was asking for “actual damages, statutory damages, punitive or treble damages, and such other relief as provided by the statutes cited herein; retroactive rent abatement for the lease of 4000 East Slauson Avenue; pre-judgment and post-judgement interest on such monetary relief; equitable relief; the costs of bringing this suit, including reasonable attorneys’ fees; and all other relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled at law or equity.”