A former Calexico City Councilman has been sentenced to prison.
Former Councilman David Romero , along with a former commissioner of the Calexico Economic Development and Financial Advisory Commission , were each sentenced to two years in prison. The pair had been charged with taking bribes for guaranteeing a City permit for a cannabis business. Romero and Commissioner Bruno Suarez-Soto had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Romero and Suarez-Soto met with an undercover FBI agent three times in late 2019 and early 2020. They demanded a $35,000 bribe at their first meeting. In return Suarez-Soto told the agent that his application for a cannabis permit would be guaranteed once the payment was made. The pair accepted two envelopes with a total of $17,500 in cash as the first payment. At a second meeting , in January 0f 2020 , Suarez-Soto told the undercover agent that having Romero on board would help the agent cut through the red tape at City Hall. The pair accepted another $17,500 at the second meeting.
Both Romero and Suarez-Soto admitted in their plea agreements that they accepted a second round of cash payments in a restaurant parking lot. They also acknowledged that they accepted both payments intending to be influenced in the performance of their duties on behalf of the City of Calexico. U. S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo observed that public officials should not " take positions of power to line their own pockets " and said that the pair's conduct " taints how we hope to believe democracy works. Maximum penalty for the crime could have been five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.