Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Alatorre Sentenced to Home Detention for Tax Evasion
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre was placed on three years’ probation yesterday and ordered to eight months of electronically monitored home detention for felony tax evasion as part of a plea bargain.
U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi accepted the agreement, reached between prosecutors and Alatorre in April, that includes a commitment by the ex-councilman and state assemblyman to undergo drug testing, pay $12,970 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and pay $4.60 a day to the company that provides electronic monitoring.
Prosecutors waived a fine after agreeing that Alatorre did not have the funds to pay it. They also agreed not to pursue further criminal charges against Alatorre, his wife, who allegedly participated in accepting the unreported funds, or a business she owned.
Alatorre, 58, declined to speak at his sentencing hearing, except to say that he accepted “responsibility for the allegations, the matter that is before us.”
Under sentencing guidelines, Alatorre could have spent six months to a year in prison and could have been fined $2,000 to $20,000.
Alatorre pled guilty to tax evasion April 9 after a probe by the IRS, the FBI and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s inspector general revealed that he accepted $41,840 in cash in 1996 from people trying to influence him in his roles as a councilman and MTA board member.
Prosecutors alleged that the then-councilman and an associate pressured the owner of an apartment complex in Alatorre’s district to hand over thousands of dollars in cash or risk being reported for building code violations. According to court documents, Samuel Mevorach told prosecutors that he gave money to Alatorre’s friend, former county Board of Education president Frank Alderete, at various restaurants.
Mevorach said that much of the money was for improvements to Alatorre’s house.
Court documents also alleged that Eastside community development company Telacu paid for a new roof on Alatorre’s house. MTA Supervisory Special Agent Mimi Strauss, who formerly headed the enforcement unit of the city Ethics Commission, said records showed that the payment was made at a time when Alatorre was backing Telacu and its partners for a $65 million MTA contract.
Strauss obtained copies of Alatorre’s state and city economic interest statements and found that he had failed to report the income from Mevorach, and that he reported the Telacu payment late, and labeled it a loan.
The probe included several city contractors. Prosecutors granted immunity to Mevorach, did not pursue corruption charges and agreed not to file solicitation of bribery charges against Alatorre.
Alatorre represented the 14th council district, which includes Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Boyle Heights, and parts of Highland Park. He had one more term of office left to him under term limits when he decided not to seek re-election in 1999.
A federal grand jury was investigating him at the time, and he had also just weathered a rancorous child guardianship case involving a girl he and his wife had raised as their daughter. The little girl, the niece of Alatorre’s wife, is the daughter of one of Alatorre’s most bitter political rivals.
In the course of that case, Alatorre was subjected to a surprise drug test and tested positive for cocaine use.
Under the plea agreement Alatorre is to refrain from use of drugs and is to be tested for drugs and alcohol.
After Alatorre left the council he was appointed by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton to a commission post that paid more than $100,000 a year. He gave up the post shortly after agreeing to the plea bargain. But since then he reportedly obtained a consulting contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Federal officials said Alatorre’s home commitment would allow him to leave his house to work or to do errands, as long as he first obtains permission.
Almost exactly a year ago, a short electronic monitoring term began for Alatorre’s council predecessor, Arthur K. Snyder. Snyder pled guilty to money laundering but appealed, and his conviction and six-month jail term were overturned by the Court of Appeal. The state Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the sentence, but Snyder was given the monitoring instead of jail time.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company