Former City Officials Sentenced for Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Cannabis Dispensary Permit – Department of Justice

Two California men were each sentenced today to two years in prison for accepting bribes in return for a guarantee of a city permit to open a commercial cannabis dispensary.

According to the plea documents, former Calexico, California, City Councilman David Romero, 37, and Bruno Suarez-Soto, 29, a former commissioner on the city’s Economic Development and Financial Advisory Commission, accepted $35,000 in cash bribes from an undercover FBI Agent who they believed represented investors seeking to open a cannabis dispensary in Calexico. In return, Romero and Soto guaranteed the rapid issuance of a city permit for the dispensary and to revoke or hinder other applicants, if necessary, to ensure that the bribe payer’s application was successful. Both men also acknowledged that they had taken bribes from others in the past. Referring to this $35,000 payment, one of them told the undercover agent, “This isn’t our first rodeo.” 

According to admissions in the plea agreements and other documents filed in court, Romero and Soto accepted the $35,000 from the undercover FBI agent in two installments. At the conclusion of a meeting between the defendants and the undercover FBI agent on Jan. 9, 2020, with Romero looking on, the undercover agent handed Soto $17,500

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