Pacheco Singing Soprano To The FBI Everything He Knows About WVWD Graft

Reports have drifted in to the Sentinel suggesting former West Valley Water District Assistant General Manager Ricardo Pacheco has provided federal investigators with a window on multiple layers of corruption at the West Valley Water District backed with substantial evidence outlining specifics within that narrative.
At issue now, the Sentinel is told, is whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office will act in a timely enough manner to ensure all of the issues uncovered through that investigation and attendant probes are included in any future indictments of the various players involved to keep certain crimes from falling outside the stature of limitations.
Pacheco nearly two years ago clandestinely pleaded guilty to accepting, while he was acting in his elected capacity as a Baldwin Park city councilman, $302,900 in bribes.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pacheco’s depredations first loomed into focus when two Baldwin Park police officers approached the FBI with concerns about the councilman, who had first been elected to the council in 1997. The FBI arranged to have one of the officers offer and then provide Pacheco with $37,900 that was represented as coming from a group of Baldwin Park officers in exchange for the councilman’s vote in March 2018 in favor of the employment contract for the city’s policemen negotiated between the Baldwin Park Police Association and the city. Among those payoffs was $20,000 in marked bills stuffed into an envelope and handed over to Pacheco by the officer.
Later that year, after Pacheco took the money and delivered on his promise to support the contract, FBI agents obtained a search warrant for Pacheco’s home. They found the $20,000 at that time. In 2019 they returned, at which point they found another $62,900 buried in two places in Pacheco’s back yard.
Pacheco sought to launder the money provided to him by the police officers by representing the money as donations to the California Fire and Safety Committee PAC, and the California Education Coalition PAC, which he claimed to control but which he did not properly register with the California Secretary of State, as well as to his own and his wife’s electioneering funds.
Pacheco, now 59, remained as a member of the city council after the FBI had initiated an investigation into his activities, which included the 2018 and 2019 searches of his premises. At that point, agents were endeavoring to determine the breadth and depth of the activity he was involved in, and who his accomplices were. His time on the council – a total of nearly 23 years – came to an end with his guilty plea to a federal bribery charge he entered on June 15, 2020 before United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II.
Following the plea, the FBI maintained secrecy with regard to elements of the investigation into Pacheco and others he was involved with directly and indirectly during his tenure as a councilman and as an employee of the water district in an effort to maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation into others.
On January 26, 2021, federal prosecutors unsealed the criminal charges against Pacheco, as well as portions of his plea agreement, which included his assisting the FBI and federal prosecutors in their efforts to bring others involved with him to justice. The disclosure of the plea was generally taken as an indication that the investigation relating to other Baldwin Park officials had concluded. At the time of his resignation, Pacheco publicly attributed his resignation to wanting more time to spend with his family and engage himself professionally, while he simultaneously denied rumors that there was any legal issue which had forced his hand. The January 2021 unsealing of the criminal charges revealed that his resignation from office was a condition of his plea. It was formally announced at that time that Pacheco was scheduled to be sentenced on August 2, 2021.
Federal officials now acknowledge that his sentencing has been postponed as a grand jury that was convened in 2020 is yet impaneled and continues to look into reports relating to irregularities in the nascent California cannabis industry and local governmental permitting processes for those business. The grand jury is tracking the filtering of money into the political war chests of politicians openly in the form of donations from prospective cannabis entrepreneurs as well as the provision of cash to elected officials originating with those same business interests that goes unreported. While he was yet in office in Baldwin Park, Pacheco was an advocate of liberal cannabis-related business licensing.
Information provided to and developed by the Sentinel indicates investigators are yet following leads obtained from Pacheco which are both directly and tangentially related to his activity as a Baldwin Park Councilman but which extend beyond that jurisdiction to others, including San Bernardino County, specifically Rialto, where the West Valley Water District has its headquarters.
Pacheco was hired by the West Valley Water District to serve in the post of assistant general manager in April 2018 at a salary of $189,592. That hiring came five months after Michael Taylor, the former police chief of Baldwin Park, was elected to the West Valley Water District’s board of directors. Less than two weeks after Taylor’s election, on November 15, 2017, the Baldwin Park City Council voted to rehire Taylor, who had been dismissed as police chief the previous year, to return to his role as police chief under a contract that was to pay him $183,368.08 in annual salary, another $8,565.86 in other pay, $54,782.03 in benefits and a $47,878.57 contribution to his pension for a total yearly compensation of $294,594.54. Upon Taylor being sworn in as a member of the water board the following month, in December 2017, the water district’s board of directors moved to hire Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya to serve as the water district’s attorney. Subsequently, West Valley Water District Board Member Clifford Young, who as president of the water district’s board of directors supported Taylor in his successful 2017 board election bid but later had a falling out with him, alleged that a corrupt bargain existed between Taylor, Tafoya and Pacheco by which Taylor was given a generous contract to serve as Baldwin Park police chief, Tafoya and his firm received a lucrative contract to serve as the water district’s general counsel and Pacheco was given an essentially do-nothing but highly lucrative position with the water district.
Pacheco had little to recommend him for the West Valley Water District position, as he had no expertise, experience or licensing in water operations.
In 2019, Young, who had been replaced by Taylor as the president of West Valley Water District’s board of directors, in conjunction with the district’s chief financial officer, Naisha Davis, and an analyst in the district’s administrative services division, Patricia Romero, filed a qui tam legal action in which they alleged Taylor, Pacheco, Tafoya and several district consultants and lawyers were engaged in an elaborate bribery and kickback scheme to divert public money to themselves. In May 2019, Pacheco was placed on paid administrative leave.
That same month, the West Valley Water District hired another political figure, then-Hesperia City Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske into a newly created assistant general manager post. Like Pacheco, Broswoske had no background, experience, expertise or licensing in water operations. From his district office he served, in essence, as a political operative, working on political campaigns, including that year’s water district board contests on behalf of three candidates favored by Taylor.
From May 2019 until November 2019, Pacheco continued to draw his salary and benefits while he was on leave, a total of more than $135,000. In November 2019, Pacheco’s employment with the district was terminated, at which point he was provided with a severance equal to nine months salary, $146,459.82.
Young protested that payout, calling it a “gift of public funds.” Young further lamented that in the 19 months Pacheco was employed by the district, including the 13 months he was reporting as the assistant general manager and the six months he was on leave, Pacheco “did no work. He simply accepted money for having hired Mike Taylor as police chief in Baldwin Park. In return, Mike Taylor hired him as assistant general manager. It was a straight trade-off. They were giving each other kickbacks in the form of jobs. Robert Tafoya was in on it, when he was hired as our [West Valley Water District’s] general counsel.”
Taylor has asserted that when the decision to hire Pacheco had been made on March 29, 2018, it had occurred in a closed session in which he had not participated.
Young, who in March 2018 was yet on good terms with Taylor, pointed out that in December 2017 Taylor had participated in the 4-to-1 vote with then-Board Member Don Olinger dissenting to hire Tafoya and he insisted that decision as well as the March 2018 hiring of Pacheco, with whom Taylor had experience in Baldwin Park, had both been made upon Taylor’s recommendations.
Taylor acknowledges making the recommendations, but nevertheless insists he had no part in the actual votes to hire Pacheco.
In April 2020, seven months after Brosowske’s colleagues on the Hesperia City Council had removed him from office on non-residency grounds, the West Valley Water District terminated him, conferring upon him a severance package of $154,884.80 in doing so. Taken together with the $173,792.66 in salary he had been paid for his 11 months with the district together with the $57,291.66 in benefits he had been provided over those same 11 months, that brought to $385,969.12 in total compensation Brosowske took from the West Valley Water District to perform tasks which the district now acknowledges Brosowske was not qualified to carry out and was incapable of performing.
A state audit of the West Valley Water District determined that the district had used slipshod hiring practices and favoritism in both its hiring and promotions.
In October 2020, FBI agents served a search warrant at Tafoya’s Los Angeles law office based upon information supplied to them by Pacheco.
According to federal investigators, legal documents drawn up by Tafoya are riddled with irregularities. Tafoya and his firm drafted the City of Baldwin Park’s commercial cannabis licensing program, which was approved by the city council in 2017. Elements of that program, it is alleged, involve conflicts of interest and favoritism toward businesses which are willing to engage in out-and-out bribery.
Baldwin Park Police Lieutenant Christopher Kuberry, who oversaw the city’s cannabis businesses inspections, in 2020 filed a sworn declaration in which he said three different operators of commercial marijuana-related concerns told him they were put in the position of “having to pay $250,000 in a brown paper bag to city officials.” Under the city’s licensing program, a company, Rukli Inc., was given an exclusive franchise as the city’s sole transporter/distributor of marijuana in the city, such that cultivators and manufacturers had to use Rukli to transport their wares.
The 2017 Baldwin Park employment contract with Taylor was worded by Tafoya to preclude the city from firing him unless he was convicted of a felony, and the contract further disallowed the city council to engage in annual evaluations of Taylor’s performance.
While he was still on the Hesperia City Council and employed by the West Valley Water District, Brosowske was advocating that Hesperia permit commercial marijuana activity within the High Desert city’s confines, while he was simultaneously associated with the Bill Postmus Cartel and its subsidiary, Mountain States Consulting Group, which have militated on behalf of commercial cannabis concerns seeking to establish exclusive licensing and permits to operate marijuana cultivation and retail businesses by multiple means, including identifiable monetary donations to various politicians’ campaign coffers and through the provision of laundered money to elected officials.
-Mark Gutglueck

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