The FBI Is Delving Into WVWD Political Intrigue, Document Shows

The extent to which festering political corruption in the Los Angeles County city of Baldwin Park migrated to inhabit the structure of governance and management within San Bernardino County’s West Valley Water District was put on display late last week with the unsealing of a document that accompanied the announcement of former San Bernardino County Planning Commissioner Gabe Chavez’s guilty pleas on bribery and money laundering charges related to a payola scheme for obtaining marijuana-related business operating permits.
Key players in the panorama of graft and the exploitation of the public trust are former Baldwin Park Councilman and one-time West Valley Water District Assistant General Manager Ricardo Pacheco, former Baldwin Park Police Chief and former West Valley Board President Mike Taylor and former Baldwin Park City Attorney and West Valley General Counsel Robert Tafoya.
According to a narrative compiled by the FBI, the trio engaged in a free-flowing exchange of political campaign assistance, lucrative employment and contractual opportunities that involved both the Los Angeles County city and the San Bernardino County water district which were demonstrable quid pro quos. All of this was an outgrowth of an illicit shakedown operation which originally involved efforts by Pacheco, who was being advised by Tafoya and Taylor, to profit through under-the-table payments from entities and individuals looking to establish marijuana/cannabis-related businesses in Baldwin Park, according to the FBI. Contributing to the atmosphere in which what was initially activity confined to Los Angeles County migrated eastward to San Bernardino County was Taylor’s transition from his profession in law enforcement to a political career and the opportunity for an administrative reorganization that presented itself with a mini-revolt of several members of the water district’s senior management which occurred around the time of Taylor’s election to a position on the water board.
Ironically, the revelations that proceeded from the unsealing of the documents and began registering with San Bernardino County residents over the weekend and throughout this week came less than two months after the death of Cliff Young, a former West Valley Water Board president who was, initially, one of Taylor’s political mentors who became, ultimately, his primary political rival and would prove instrumental in Taylor’s political unraveling.
As summer dawned in 2017, Michael Taylor was at a crossroads. He had in the fall of the previous year been forced out of a position at the pinnacle of his law enforcement profession and he was carrying on a serious debate with himself about whether he should seek to return to life as a cop or just retire. At the same time, he was torn as to whether he should again roll the dice on a bid for elected office, after having lost in his first such effort two years previously. Some three-and-a-half decades earlier, in 1981, Taylor had been hired as a patrolman with the Baldwin Park Police Department. He had made a steady progress up the ranks of the department under police chiefs David Snowden, Richard Hoskin, Carmine R. Lanza, Edward Lopez and Lili Hadsell, and was made police chief in 2013. In 2016, Taylor was fired, just as the City of Baldwin Park began in earnest to litigate a lawsuit brought against it in which Hadsell had alleged gender discrimination that resulted in her being unjustifiably terminated as police chief and that Taylor, as one of her highest-ranking subordinates, had undermined her in tandem with Baldwin Park City Councilman Ricardo Pacheco.
Taylor did not live in Baldwin Park, but rather 36 miles east on the I-10 Freeway in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Rialto. One of Taylor’s neighbors was Clifford Young, a professor at Cal State University San Bernardino. The two had much in common. Both had risen near or toward the top of their chosen professions within the public as opposed to the private sectors. Both were Republicans, with Young having a disputed claim to being the most prominent African American member of the GOP in San Bernardino County. A point of historical fact was that in 2003 and 2004, Young had been appointed to the position of Fifth District San Bernardino County Supervisor, which made him the first, and so far only, Black member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors since that august panel’s inception in 1853. Both Young and Taylor were extensively educated, having each earned doctorates. And both were bona fide alpha types, with dominant personalities that propelled them to success in life. They had met as neighbors, grew acquainted and were friendly.
Young had been involved in academia as the chairman of the California State University at San Bernardino’s School of Public Administration, a position to which he returned after his two-year stint on the board of supervisors ended in 2004. In 2013, he had reentered the political fray, capturing a seat on the board of the West Valley Water District. In 2015, he had encouraged Taylor to make a run for the board, one that had not been successful.
In Baldwin Park, the city was facing financial challenges. Like most of the cities in California, the politicians and establishment there had not, exactly, welcomed the legalization of marijuana for medical use that had come with the passage of 1996’s Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use of Marijuana Act. It had not moved to allow marijuana dispensaries into the city. But in 2016, the residents of California had passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which allowed those of the age of majority in California to use marijuana for its intoxicative effect. Some municipal officials, particularly ones who oversaw cash-strapped cities, took that as their cue to clear the way for entrepreneurs ready to market the drug to set up shop in their cities and hopefully capture the tax windfall that many anticipated would accompany the marijuanification of California. Ultimately, with Pacheco as the spark plug, Baldwin Park, guided by City Attorney Robert Tafoya, moved toward formulating and adopting a policy of allowing those marijuana entrepreneurs to obtain permits to operate in the city, such that fees and taxes paid by and through those operations would pour money into the financially challenged municipality’s coffers. Pacheco and Tafoya informally conferred with Taylor, who had spent his entire career harassing and arresting marijuana smokers and jailing and ultimately imprisoning those who sold them the product they were smoking. They wanted to know from him what the law enforcement reaction to the city reversing course would be, given that the substance had been legalized. Pacheco and Tafoya asked Taylor whether the police force would be willing to sit still if pot shops were to be opened at various locations around the 6.79 square mile city.
Meanwhile, at the Rialto headquarters of the West Valley Water Agency, Young’s aggressive personality had begun to grate on some of the district’s employees, particularly those placed higher up on the totem, pole. They were resentful over the way in which, according to them, he had overstepped his authority as a board member. Young would question or press them with regard to policy or operations, which in their view was not in keeping with way policy and operational directives are normally and properly filtered through to staff, which normally involves a process by which the elected board sets policy, explains and delivers that policy to the general manager, who then has the authority to direct department heads as to what should be accomplished and how to accomplish it. In addition, differences had manifested between Young and another board member, Linda Gonzalez, who had been elected to the council in 2013 in the same election cycle as Young and was therefore scheduled to run again in November 2017 when he would again be on the ballot. Accordingly, both surreptitiously and openly, a band of district employees were working on behalf of Gonzalez and in opposition to Young. Once again, Young encouraged Taylor to run for a position on the West Valley Water Board, this time with the hope that if the voters chose to retain him, they might also elect Taylor in place of Gonzalez, which would leave him with not only the authority but a mandate to act decisively in putting down the brewing staff insurrection.
Taylor’s second shot at elected office was far better orchestrated than his first. Young provided him with financial support and campaign advice, and Taylor had obtained a substantial degree of financial assistance from elsewhere. He also employed as his campaign manager David Morgan, who had previously worked on the staff of Republican Assemblyman/California State Senator Bill Emmerson. Morgan brought a degree of sophistication and resourcefulness to the 2017 campaign that Taylor had lacked in 2015. Ultimately, in the 2017 contest, in which two four-year board positions were up for selection, Young finished in first, with 14,28 votes or 27.53 percent. Taylor proved the second-leading vote-getter with 1,404 or 27.06 percent. Gonzalez claimed 1,345 votes or 25.93 percent. Anthony Araiza, who had been for two decades the general manager of the district, finished with 1,011 votes or 19.49 percent. Thus, Taylor displaced Gonzalez. Also elected to a two-year term on the board in a special election which was necessitated to fill the final two years of the term to which Alan Dyer had been elected in 2015 as a consequence of Dyer’s resignation was Kyle Crowther, who was considered to be an ally to both Young and Taylor.
Fresh off that victory for the three, things moved rapidly and remarkably at the district, and simultaneously, in Baldwin Park.
Whereas just months before Taylor had been at a fork in the road where off in one direction had been the possibility of seeking to reignite his law enforcement career that had flamed out with his firing as police chief in Baldwin Park and in the other direction pursuing a life in politics, of a sudden he found himself in the position where he could, and in fact did, follow both paths.
Even before Young Taylor and Crowther were sworn into office at the first West Valley Water District board meeting in December 2017, less than two weeks after Taylor’s election to the West Valley Water District Board, on November 15, 2017, the Baldwin Park City Council voted to rehire Taylor as police chief, to return him to his former role 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. The employment contract with Taylor was worded by Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya to preclude the city from firing Taylor unless he was convicted of a felony, and the contract further prohibited the city council from engaging in annual evaluations of Taylor’s performance.
Upon being sworn in to office in December 2017, Young, Taylor, and Crowther acted in concert with Young’s existing ally on the board, Greg Young, who is no blood relation to Cliff Young, to sack, suspend or place on administrative leave District General Manager Matthew Litchfield; Assistant General Manager Greg Gage; the district’s human resources manager, Karen Logue; and the board’s secretary, Shanae Smith. They terminated chief financial officer Marie Ricci. Don Olinger, the only Democrat on the board at that time, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Virtually simultaneously, the district retained a new general legal counsel, hiring Tofoya, who was yet serving in the capacity of Baldwin Park city attorney.
With the staff leadership of the district having been more than decimated, indeed roughly two-fifths eliminated, the board brought in former Loma Linda Mayor Bob Christman to serve as interim district manager. The board acted to rescind the suspension of Litchfield, who thereupon chose to retire. The others who had been terminated or suspended – Gage, Logue, Smith and Ricci – initiated legal action against the district, which Tafoya at once went to work on contesting or resolving.
In March 2018, less than five months after Taylor’s and Crowther’s elections and Cliff Young’s reelection and barely three months after their swearing-in and Tafoya’s hiring as West Valley general legal counsel, the district, prompted by Taylor, hired Pacheco, who was yet at that time a councilman in Baldwin Park, to serve in the post of assistant general manager at an annual salary of $189,592 plus benefits.
Pacheco had little to recommend him for the West Valley Water District position, as he had no expertise, experience or licensing in water operations. Taylor, however, convinced his board colleagues to go ahead with the hiring, persuasively arguing that Pacheco indeed had licensing as an electrical engineer; that electricity was a vital element of the district’s operations; that shoring up the district’s managerial team was sorely needed in the aftermath of the departures of Litchfield, Gage, Logue, Smith and Ricci; and that Pacheco had previously been employed at the Metropolitan Water Company in Los Angeles, the latter assertion being a somewhat risky ploy, given that Pacheco had actually been terminated from Metropolitan under rather telling circumstances. That bluff worked, however, as the remainder of the board accepted Taylor’s suggestion that Pacheco be installed in the position. Significantly, when the actual vote to hire Pacheco was made, on March 29, 20018, Taylor abstained.
Christman was having health challenges and at any rate had little experience in running a water operation. He sought assistance in managing the district. Since Pacheco had no real ability to oversee the operations, Christman convinced the board to allow him to hire Clarence Mansell as a consultant. As spring advanced to summer in 2018, Mansell had just left the employ of Veolia Water in which he played a leading role in overseeing municipal water operations for the City of Rialto. Essentially, Christman had Mansell there to serve as what was for all practical purposes the district’s co-manager in charge of operations.
In October 2018, Christman died. Almost simultaneously, Taylor initiated a coup by which, having formed an alliance with Crowther and Olinger, he deposed Cliff Young as board president, taking on the district’s political leadership.
Once in control of the district, Taylor moved to hire Mansell as the district’s interim general manager, hinting that upon Mansell proving himself, he might be given the full-fledged general manager’s position. Mansell was a journeyman water operations professional with nearly 40 years experience, including work with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, the cities of Los Angeles, Corona, and Rialto as well as in his role as a water operations troubleshooting consultant.
The atmospherics in the district, which had evened out somewhat over the months as the forced departures of Litchfield, Gage, Logue, Smith and Ricci became more temporally distant and the district’s political leadership appeared to be an unbreachible monolith, changed almost at once, with a new tension coming into play as district employees sensed that once again there was a power struggle at the top and their jobs might be at stake if it turned out they had sided with the eventual loser.
In March of 2019, Cliff Young linked up with the water district’s chief financial officer, Naisha Davis, and an analyst in the district’s administrative services division, Patricia Romero, to file a qui tam legal action in which they alleged Taylor, Pacheco, Tafoya, the law firm of Albright, Yee & Schmit, along with the Kaufman Law Firm and consultant Robert Katherman engaged in an elaborate bribery and kickback scheme that provided gifts, travel accommodations, entertainment and political contributions to members of the water board, in particular Taylor and Crowther, in exchange for unnecessary or questionable services being rendered for the district which resulted in the diversion of public money.
In May 2019, Mansell, at Taylor’s prompting and assured that board members Kyle Crowther and Don Olinger supported the move, hired then-Hesperia City Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske under a contract to serve as the district’s assistant general manager at an annual salary of $189,592 along with benefits and add-ons valued at over $62,000 per year. Brosowske had no experience, no training, held no certificates or licenses, and possessed no expertise in water operations or public agency administration or management.
Meanwhile, in the City of Baldwin Park, where the city council in August of 2017 had approved a cannabis cultivation ordinance, Pacheco was making progress in getting his council colleagues to consider and approve permits and arrangements with individuals and businesses looking to cultivate and sell marijuana within the city. As early as 2018 word had reached law enforcement, including both the Baldwin Park Police Department and the FBI, that Pacheco was soliciting and receiving bribes from applicants for cannabis-related business operations in the city. It is unclear to what degree Taylor, who at that time was Baldwin Park’s police chief, was aware of the suspicion that had fallen upon Pacheco nor what evidence against the councilman had been gathered at that point.
Within the FBI, scrutiny was being given to the cannabis-related business approval processes and protocols in use by the city.
Tafoya and his firm drafted the City of Baldwin Park’s marijuana cultivation and sales ordinance, which was approved by the city council in 2017. Elements of Baldwin Park’s commercial cannabis licensing program, the blueprint for which consists of the ordinance drafted by Tafoya, involved the potential for conflicts of interest and favoritism toward businesses, the FBI concluded. That ordinance and other legal documents drawn up by Tafoya are riddled with irregularities, federal investigators observed.
Convinced that Pacheco was on the take, the FBI designed a sting operation against him, one that was not based on commercial marijuana-related activity but rather another area of responsibility that fell to the council, city employee contracts. In 2018, a Baldwin Park police officer involved with the Baldwin Park Police Officers Association made contact with Pacheco. Unknown to the councilman was that the officer was working in cooperation with the FBI. In exchange for Pacheco’s promise to vote in favor of the Baldwin Park police officers’ union’s contract with the city, which Pacheco made good on during a city council meeting in March 2018, the officer paid or made arrangements to convey $37,900 in bribes to the councilman from January through October 2018.
That money included $17,900 in the form of checks made out to Pacheco’s church and to what the U.S. Attorney’s Office referred to as “sham political committees” under the names of other people but controlled by Pacheco. In addition, the officer slipped an envelope with $20,000 in cash to Pacheco at a Baldwin Park coffee shop, according to a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Some two month after the last of that money was delivered to Pacheco, the FBI served a search warrant at his home, where they found $83,145 in cash, including $62,900 that Pacheco had buried in his backyard in two locations.
Thereafter, Pacheco was secretly cooperating with the FBI, turning over to federal agents and the U.S. Attorney’s office or allowing them to monitor his phone calls, text messages and emails.
Relatively soon after Pacheco had been hired into the assistant general manager’s position at the West Valley Water District, it had become clear to Taylor’s board colleagues and senior staff at the district that Pacheco had no qualifications for the post, which was of little consequence, as the job he had been provided with was an essentially do-nothing assignment, meant as a highly lucrative sinecure provided to the councilman as a political favor. While only rarely was he required to show up at the district headquarters, for most of the final nine months of 2018 and the first three months of 2019, he made occasional appearances there. Beginning in April 2019, Pacheco was absolutely absent from the district offices. In May 2019, it was announced that Pacheco was on paid administrative leave, and he continued to draw his full pay until November 2019, 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 of $146,459.82, equal to nine month’s salary.
Cliff 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 credited with the title of 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 general counsel.”
In the fall of 2019, with the approach of the November 2019 election, the first in the district’s history to be conducted by-district as opposed to at-large, Taylor militated to maintain political control of the district.
With Crowther seeking reelection in that portion of the district – Division 1 – covering Fontana and a part of Bloomington, Olinger in that section of the district – Division 4 – covering a portion of Rialto, and Greg Young seeking reelection in that expanse within the district – Division 5 – covering much of Bloomington, Taylor threw his support behind getting both Olinger and Crowther reelected and in seeking to unseat Greg Young. Taylor transferred or spent some $1,392.50 from his own campaign fund to support Crowther in his run against challengers Betty Gosney and Linda Gonzalez; $25,050.25 in support of Olinger in his contest against Channing Hawkins; and another $16,128.04‬ to support Angel Ramirez, a Fontana resident who relocated into a rented room in Bloomington just before the election filing period so he could run against Greg Young.
Taylor further utilized Brosowske, who had previous experience working on more than 40 campaigns of Republican candidates for public office, to assist Crowther, Olinger and Ramirez in their electioneering efforts.
Ultimately, things went Taylor’s way in only one of those three elections. Crowther outdistanced his two challengers, Betty Gosney and Linda Gonzalez, claiming 278 votes or 53.05 percent to Gosney’s 32 votes of 6.11 percent and Gonzalez’s 211 votes or 40.27 percent. Channing Hawkins beat Don Olinger in a head-to-head contest, 618 votes or 65.05 percent to 332 votes or 34.95 percent. Greg Young, with 338 votes or 52.73 percent, leapt past Angel Ramirez, who pulled in 228 votes or 35.57 percent. A third candidate in District 5, Jackie Cox, collected 75 votes or 11.7 percent.
At that point, Taylor’s political hold on the West Valley Water District appeared to have elapsed. With Olinger gone and Greg Young reelected, the reascension of Dr. Young was at hand.
At the December 5, 2019 West Valley Water District Board meeting, Hawkins was installed as a member of the board with his swearing in, which was conducted by Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson, while Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren performed the swearing in of Crowther and Greg Young. The next order of business after the investiture was the reorganization of the board’s officers, i.e., the newly-composed board settling on who among its members would serve in the capacity of president. It was widely assumed that either Dr. Clifford Young or Greg Young, who had been relegated to the role of minority members at odds with the ruling coalition of Taylor, Crowther and Olinger for the previous 14 months, now strengthened with the replacement of Olinger by Hawkins, would be elevated to board president.
The canny Taylor, however, was not yet prepared to surrender to Clifford Young command over the district. He was yet, until a new president was selected, in possession of the district gavel and in control of the proceedings. As soon as the item was taken up, without recognizing anyone else and not allowing one of the Youngs to nominate the other for the president’s post, he immediately launched into a narrative about how since the election had concluded he had the opportunity to meet and familiarize himself with Hawkins, whom he had found to be “a very bright and gifted person who has an amazing degree of maturity for a person of his age.” With no further ado, he nominated Hawkins to serve as board president. Without hesitation and not waiting for Crowther to second the nomination, Hawkins himself voiced the second. So stunned were both Youngs by the staccato-paced maneuver, which had rather obviously been choreographed in advance between Taylor and Hawkins, that neither was able to offer a substitute motion or competing nomination before the vote was called for and taken. Greg Young abstained and Clifford Young, bowing to the inevitable, joined with Taylor, Crowther and Hawkins in voting to establish Hawkins as board president. Immediately after the vote, Taylor handed the president’s gavel to Hawkins, who assumed the position of board president. The next order of business was the selection of the board vice-president. Taylor immediately nominated his ally, Crowther, to serve as vice-president, which was followed by a 3-to-1 vote in favor of Crowther, with Greg Young abstaining and Dr. Young opposed.
Taylor, by his astute and quick action, had effectuated a mini-coup. While he had to surrender the presidency of the board, that outcome was inevitable. Still, he had prevented Clifford Young from reasserting himself into a position of control and he had further prevented Greg Young, who was second in seniority on the board to Dr. Young and was the most logical appointee to a leadership role on the board, from obtaining appointment to either the president’s position or the vice-president’s position. By his gambit, Taylor furthermore headed off the manifestation of any hard feeling that perhaps existed on Hawkins’ part toward him over his support of his opponent, Olinger, in the November 5, 2019 contest, in particular the $22,620.48 of Taylor’s own campaign funds that had been used in the effort to keep Hawkins out of office. By forging a bond with Hawkins through ensuring his elevation to board president immediately after coming into office, a highly unusual advancement in the world of politics where such honorifics are not normally extended until an office holder has gained some years of experience in office, Taylor obstructed the formation of a natural and what otherwise might have been an inevitable alliance between Hawkins and Dr. Young, and put himself into position to make further amends with Hawkins and establish a working political relationship with the board’s newest member that over the next two years proved effective in stymying Clifford Young’s hope of once again asserting control over the district.
While Taylor was proving himself more adept at outmaneuvering the aging Dr. Young with regard to issues and developments within the immediate orbit of the water district in Rialto, in the larger context of the ongoing FBI investigation that was spreading across the landscape of Southern California from Los Angeles County and into San Bernardino County, events were on a pace, albeit a glacial one, to eventually overtake Taylor.
Somehow, perhaps because federal agents by design had endeavored to be discreet in carrying out their operations, the search warrant that was served on Pacheco at his home, including the unearthing of the buried cash in his backyard, drew no public attention. The councilman had quietly agreed to cooperate with investigators in assisting them in determining the depth of corruption in the City of Baldwin Park’s transition to a community that hosted marijuana-based commercial activity. That cooperation included allowing agents to set up points of vantage with regard to a whole host of interactions between Pacheco, who was still a councilman and mayor pro tem in Baldwin Park, and businessman, other politicians, political operatives and community leaders.
In March 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Pacheco and he entered guilty pleas on those, actions that were kept secret to facilitate the FBI’s continuing investigation of public corruption, with which the councilman was participating as a confidential informant. In June 2020, Pacheco resigned from his council position, which had been a condition of his plea arrangement with the government. To protect the yet ongoing investigation, no disclosure of the plea arrangement was made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Pacheco publicly stated that he had resigned so he could spend more time with his family and pursue other professional endeavors. Federal officials did nothing to contradict that, and obscuring the matter further were reports that Pacheco’s resignation had come shortly after Baldwin Park officials had come across indications that he had used a city-issued credit card at strip clubs and amid reports that he had asked for inappropriate favors from the police department, including fixing traffic tickets.
To those who were paying close attention, there were yellow caution lights glaring all around Pacheco. There were explicit accusations about him in the qui tam lawsuit lodged in federal court by Cliff Young, Naisha Davis and Patricia Romero, which, incidentally, FBI agents had focused intensely upon. His extended absence from his West Valley Water District assistant general manager’s post in 2019 had raised, for some, red flags. His out-of-the-blue resignation from the council was, at least, a rather curious development.
In September 2020, recently retired Baldwin Park Police Lieutenant Christopher Kuberry, who had overseen the city’s cannabis businesses inspections, 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.” Disclosed was that 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 product.
If those around Pacheco were able to remain blissfully ignorant of the vortex-to-hell he represented, that state of comfort was pretty much shattered on October 28, 2020, when the FBI  served search warrants at the home of Compton City Councilman Isaac Galvan, the downtown Los Angeles law office of Robert Tafoya and the Upland home of  San Bernardino County Planning Commissioner Gabe Chavez.
An analysis of the search warrants and the entire circumstance led those whose premises had been searched to the inescapable conclusion that Pacheco was an FBI informant. If they failed to fully grasp that reality, it was brought home to them in no uncertain terms three months later when the U.S. Attorney’s Office in January 2021 publicly trumpeted Pacheco’s June 2020 guilty plea and the details relating to his acceptance of bribes from the officer with the police union, unsealing the criminal information that had been filed against him and partially unsealing the plea agreement by which Pacheco had agreed to fully cooperate in ongoing public corruption investigations. Those redactions were intended, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “to protect the integrity of ongoing aspects of those investigations.”
The cat was out of the bag. All of those who had been involved with Pacheco in any of his various depredations at that point knew themselves to be on the FBI’s radar screen.
Taylor, who was no longer serving in the capacity of police chief in Baldwin Park and who had vied, unsuccessfully, for a position on the Rialto City Council in November 2020, began to reexamine his political aspirations. He had been granted an extra year in office on the West Valley Water District Board of Directors when the district had transitioned from odd-number year elections to even-number year elections. Privately, he resolved that he would not seek reelection when in 2022 his term was set to elapse. He made no mention of that decision, but for those close to the board and district operations, it was apparent that something was different, as Taylor was no longer so intensely focused on trying to force himself into being, with Hawkins, the co-regent of the district. He seemed distracted.
Indeed, he was. His disengagement with community went beyond his intent to step down from the water board. He was concerned that the pox upon the houses of the City of Baldwin Park and West Valley Water District was to soon infect him. Hoping he might elude being drawn into a very ugly situation, he began plotting his exit from Southern California. He would, he decided, leave California altogether. The further he went, he figured, the better.
Interestingly, both Crowther and Clifford Young would beat Taylor to the punch. In November 2021, Crowther, announcing he had been offered an out-of-state employment offer, resigned. In December 2021, dealing with the heavy blow of the death of his wife, Jacqualynne, and himself facing a health challenge, Young tendered his resignation from the water district’s board of directors to allow him to move from Rialto to live with family members to look after him during his treatment and presumed recovery.
Taylor remained on the board five months longer than did Clifford Young, but tendered his resignation at the end of May and in July moved to Arkansas. The board moved to replace him with Dan Jenkins.
In August, Clifford Young passed away.
Other than that sobering news, throughout the summer things remained relatively quiet. But late last week, things heated up. On October 7, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a criminal information against Chavez and plea agreement with him on a single charge alleging he had participated in and facilitated a scheme by Pacheco to accept and launder bribes from two companies in exchange for his votes to approve their cannabis-related business permits. According to that information and plea agreement, Chavez, the proprietor of Xavier Batteries and a member of the Ontario Planning Commission before he was appointed to the county planning commission, between August 2017 and March 2018 through his Claremont-based internet marketing company, Market Share Media Agency, received $170,000 from the two companies and passed through to Pacheco between $80,000 and $93,000 in cash.
In conjunction with that announcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office unsealed a set of documents detailing the activity Pacheco was involved in, including his interactions with the commercial marijuana companies that obtained permits to operate in Baldwin Park, as well as Tafoya, Chavez and Taylor, among others.
Those documents include Pacheco’s unexpurgated signed plea agreement, an accompanying statement of facts, and a narrative of events put together by FBI agents. In the statement of facts, several of the entities are described not by name but by numerical references. Nevertheless, through context, descriptions as to circumstance and those individuals’ roles and positions, as well as specific detail, the identities of several of those who interacted with Pacheco can be accurately surmised.
In the document, Tafoya is referred to as “Person 1.” His identity is given away by the description offered of an individual who “served as the Baldwin Park City Attorney since in or around December 2013,” which in all respects applies to Tafoya and Tafoya alone. Taylor is referred to as “Person 2,” which is established by several points of factual convergence in the statement of facts, including the date upon which Pacheco voted as a member of the Baldwin Park City Council to approve the contract under which Taylor was reinstalled as police chief.
The statement of facts indicates that there were several quid pro quos exchanged among Pacheco, Taylor and Tafoya, many of which correspond in many respects or even precisely with the allegations of bribery and kicbaks described in the qui tam lawsuit that was brought by Young, Davis and Romero.
According to the statement of facts, “Beginning in at least July 2017 and continuing through at least November 2019, defendant [Pacheco] entered into agreement with Person 2 [Taylor], in which defendant would fund Person 2’s campaign for the water district board and help him secure a contract with the city [the City of Baldwin Park]. In exchange, when Person 2 became a board member and an agent of the water district, Person 2 would provide defendant a job at the water district. Defendant directed and/or arranged for Person 2’s campaign to receive approximately $20,500, which represented almost the entirety of $21,797 in monetary contributions received by Person 2’s campaign. These donations obtained by defendant came from individuals with business before the city. Defendant further arranged for Person 2’s campaign to receive $4,789.098 of in-kind contributions from CEC [the California Education Coalition], the PAC [political action committee] defendant controlled. These in-kind donations were never disclosed by Person 2’s election committee in an effort to conceal defendant’s agreement with Person 2. As the result of his appointment to the Water District, defendant received at least $300,000 in total salary from April 2018 through October 2019. In addition to this amount, defendant received approximately $142,194 in a severance package in November 2019.”
The statement of facts continues, “More specifically regarding the origin of this agreement, in approximately July 2017, defendant and Person 2 had a conversation at Baldwin Park City Hall in which Person 2 told defendant he planned to run for [the] West Valley Water District Board and needed defendant’s help, which defendant understood to mean help fundraising for the campaign. During this conversation, Person 2 told defendant that the water district had job openings and that if defendant helped Person 2 with his campaign, defendant would try to get him a job at the water district. Specifically, Person 2 said that once he got elected to the water district’s board, ‘we’ll get you in.’ Person 2 and defendant also discussed how this position would assist defendant with maxing out his California state pension so that defendant would receive the most money possible in retirement. Defendant agreed to raise money for Person 2 in exchange for a position at the water district. Later, on a different date, Person 2 changed the terms of his deal with defendant and told defendant that he wanted their deal to include defendant’s vote and support for the renewal of Person 2’s contract with the city (collectively, with the agreement to raise funds for Person 2’s campaign in exchange for a water district job for defendant, the ‘Water District Agreement.’). In furtherance of the Water District Agreement, Person 2 involved Person 5 [Clifford Young], an elected official, to further the effort to obtain a job for defendant at the water district. Person 5 told defendant that if defendant helped Person 2 and Person 5 get elected, then Person 2 and Person 5 would ‘help’ defendant.”
According to the statement of facts, Pacheco approached Sharone Barshatski, the principal in a marijuana-related company that ultimately obtained an operating permit in Baldwin Park, and had him provide a $10,000 check to Taylor’s campaign, which was received on September 14, 2017. Barshatski also provided a $10,000 check to Pacheco’s California Education Coalition, and Pacheco thereafter arranged for the California Education Coalition to make a $7,000 donation to Taylor’s campaign on September 26, 2017.
According to the statement of facts, “On October 9, 2017, Person 2 sent a text message to defendant’s cellphone that stated: “Okay we are making our big push and I really need the 5 k bro. Otherwise i’m completely broke this week and we are done,’ meaning that the success of Person 2’s campaign depended on defendant’s help with fundraising.”
According to the statement of facts, Pacheco came through by having Michael Glanakis, a land developer from Southgate put up a $1,500 donation on October 10 and having four checks from the California Education Coalition totaling $3,289.08 delivered to David Morgan, Taylor’s campaign manager, one of which covered $2,699.94 that was owed to a printing company and $589.14 to pay for mailing campaign literature. On October 28, according to the statement of facts, Pacheco had the California Education Coalition provide Taylor’s campaign with two more checks totaling $1,500, with one payable to a printing company for $767.34 and the other two the U.S. Postal Service for $732.66. The statement of facts states, “Person 2’s campaign never reported these in-kind donations on its California Fair Political Practices Commission forms.”
The statement of facts states, “Defendant understood from Person 7 [Morgan] that the money paid by CEC to the printing company and United States Postal Service was in part to pay for a ‘hit piece,’ that is, a negative advertisement, against Person 2 and Person 5’s opponents. The ‘hit piece’ had been designed by Person 1 [Tafoya] who himself was seeking to obtain a contract for legal services from the water district. In addition to these contributions, defendant solicited donations for Person 2’s campaign from Person 8, a business owner, and, in response, received two checks totaling $1,000 from Person 8. Defendant also solicited donations from Person 9, a business owner, and, in response, received a $1000 check from Person 9.”
The Sentinel has identified Person 8 as Joseph White of Phoenix, Arizona and Person 9 as Sandra Espinoza, the owner of Lumen Source in Alhambra.
According to the statement of facts, “On November 8, 2017, the day after the election, defendant sent the following text message to Person 2: ‘Assistant GM [general manager],’ which signified the water district position defendant wanted in exchange for his help with Person 2’s campaign. Approximately 30 minutes later, Person 2 responded: ‘Really? We will talk if my contract goes through.’ Approximately two minutes later, defendant sent the next two messages: “Because you can’t afford me anyplace else. I make 180K plus benefits’ and ‘Make a second AGM [assistant general manager] spot for more efficient program.’ Less than a minute later, Person 2 responded: ‘Working on it.’ On November 9, 2017, Person 2 sent the following text message to defendant: ‘Okay we all just won we are in.’ In response, defendant asked: ‘Can we discuss the GM position.’”
The statement of facts continues, “On November 9, 2017 and November 10, 2017, defendant sought to pressure another city councilmember to vote in favor of renewing Person 2’s contract with the city. The councilmember explained to defendant that she would not vote for the new contract proposal because it had materially changed from the one she had originally agreed to support. During a text message exchange, defendant wrote the following three messages within the same minute: 1) ‘I just need your support’; (2) ‘Plus he just won in a large water district’; and (3) ‘Think about the possibilities,’ by which defendant meant that the councilmember could obtain financial benefits from the water district, herself, and Person 2 if the councilmember supported Person 2’s contract renewal.”
According to the statement of facts, “On November 15, 2017, in furtherance of the Water District Agreement, defendant voted in favor of renewing Person 2’s contract. The city council voted to renew Person 2’s contract by a 3-2 margin. In December 2017, at the victory celebration for Person 2 and Person 5, Person 2 and Person 5 confirmed for defendant that they would make good on their promise of providing him a position at the water district.”
According to the statement of facts, “After becoming an agent of the water district, Person 2 worked to create a new position of assistant general manager for the water district and to hire defendant for that position pursuant to their Water District Agreement. On March 29, 2018, in accordance with the Water District Agreement, the water district hired him as an assistant manager and shortly thereafter elevated and added additional responsibilities, which provided defendant an annual salary of $189,592 and the use of a water district vehicle. The board voted 4-0 in favor of defendant’s contract with Person 2 abstaining, which was done in an effort to further conceal the Water District Agreement.”
The statement of facts relates that “On December 13, 2018, FBI special agents executed a search warrant on defendant’s residence and vehicle. Once the search had finished and on the same day, defendant met with Person 2 at a city event and told him about the FBI’s search of his home. Between March 2019 and April 30, 2019, defendant spoke with Person 2 and detailed evidence the FBI had gathered concerning the Police Association Scheme. Person 2 then provided defendant false exculpatory statement that Person 2 suggested defendant could tell the FBI, such as falsely stating that the cash he accepted from PO-1 [Police Officer 1] were merely campaign contributions.”
The statement of facts related how Tafoya was, consigliere-like behind the scenes, instructing Pacheco, Taylor and Chavez on how to comport themselves in carrying out the activity they were engaging in, including formulating the consulting agreement between Chavez’s marketing firm and the cannabis companies which served as a vehicle for Pacheco to hide and launder the kickbacks he was receiving for approving those company’s operating permits in Baldwin Park.
The disclosure in the statement of facts that Pacheco had confided to Taylor immediately after the FBI raid that it had taken place clashes, the Sentinel has learned, with Taylor’s representations to members of the board and senior management employees at the West Valley Water District made at the time of the announcement of Pacheco’s guilty plea in 2021 that he had known nothing of the FBI’s action targeting Pacheco.
The revelations contained in the statement of facts sent many officials throughout Southern California, in both Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County, in Baldwin Park and in the West Valley Water District, as well as elsewhere, reeling.
Tafoya submitted his resignation as Baldwin Park City Attorney to the city council, which on Wednesday, October 12, accepted it.
The Sentinel has learned that Taylor has sojourned from his residence in Arkansas to Southern California. One report was that he was meeting with the FBI in an effort to negotiate a deal by which he would turn state’s evidence to either avoid prosecution or obtain leniency if he is prosecuted. The Sentinel was not able to locate Taylor and had not confirmed that report as of press time.
At present, Tafoya remains as the general counsel to the West Valley Water District. The water district board is next scheduled to meet next week.
One individual close to the situation in the water district told the Sentinel, “This isn’t the first time the FBI has come through here. They got everybody’s attention with the announcement of Ricardo’s guilty plea last year. What it looks like is the FBI is shaking the tree one last time to see what rotten fruit comes falling out in the form of people who can be flipped. After that, anyone involved in all of this who hasn’t come forth will be left holding the bag.”

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