Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bell Gardens Councilman Offers Guilty Plea

A Bell Gardens Councilman accused of embezzling campaign funds has pleaded guilty to multiple counts, the District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division said Mario Beltran, 31, pleaded to four misdemeanor counts including failing to file campaign disclosure forms and failing to deposit cash contributions, all violations of the Political Reform Act.

The charges stem from the defendant’s reported failure to report to authorities how he was spending campaign funds entrusted to him and his failure to deposit and account for cash given to him.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli ordered Beltran back for sentencing on Feb. 12. The defendant must resign from office prior to sentencing.

Beltran is expected to receive four years of probation during which time he may not hold elected or appointed office and may not seek elected office or lobby. Seven counts of grand theft, one count of perjury and one count of failing to deposit cash will be dismissed at sentencing as part of a negotiated plea agreement.

In a previous prosecution in 2007, the defendant was convicted by a Downey jury of a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report.

The current indictment came after a hearing in which political and business leaders testified before the grand jury that Beltran told contributors that he was using the money he was raising for his re-election when, in fact, he used it to pay for his legal defense. The defendant also reportedly used campaign funds to pay for a cell phone under another person’s name and failed to report it, prosecutors said.

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