by: Ruby Gonzales
Tran, also a former El Monte Union High School District board member, pleaded guilty to two felonies, attempted witness tampering by corrupt persuasion and making a false statement to the FBI.
As part of the deal, federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 18 to 24 months in prison when Tran is sentenced April 28 in a Los Angeles court. He also will be fined and must pay about $38,000 in restitution, which is the total amount of the bribes the government accused Tran of taking from a local real estate developer.
Without the deal, Tran could have faced more than 25 years in prison.
He was indicted earlier this year for allegedly accepting bribes from a real estate developer identified in court documents at “T.W.”
Tran’s attorney, Michael Zweiback, said Tuesday the government already has received the restitution money. Tran faces a maximum fine of $500,000 but Zweiback expects him to receive a much lower fine.
He said his client took the plea deal because it’s no longer a case about bribery and extortion.
“It’s about statements he made to an informant and the FBI during a grand jury investigation,” Zweiback said. He added that the investigation was started by an allegation of bribery.
Zweiback said he didn’t think Tran would withdraw this plea, as he did after pleading guilty to bribery in March of 2012. He asked the court in August 2012 to allow him to withdraw that plea, and a judge ruled in his favor in December.
“The government made him a fair and reasonable offer on a case which we believe was overcharged,” Zweiback said of Tran’s Monday plea.
Elisa Fernandez, an assistant U.S. Attorney with the Criminal Division’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, said the other felony counts against Tran will be dismissed at his sentencing. She pointed out that Tran pleaded guilty to two felony counts.
“I don’t want you to underestimate the seriousness of the charges he is pleading to, “ she said. “It’s very serious to obstruct justice.”
“Ms. Fernandez has said everything about the case. We filed the plea agreement. It’s public record and beyond that, I have no comment,” Middleton said.
The witness Tran tried to tamper with is the developer identified at “T.W.” The witness bought a vacant lot in Rosemead and went to Rosemead City Hall in 2005 to obtain permits to construct an office building, according to court documents.
T.W. met Tran there. According to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney, Tran and two other city employees suggested T.W. build a mixed-use project instead of the office building. They also recommended buying the adjacent vacant lot, which T.W. did.
Prosecutors said Tran later visited T.W,’s office and asked to “borrow” $3,000, mentioning that he had helped the developer with the project.
T.W. gave Tran four payments totaling about $38,000 between 2005 and 2007 in exchange for a promise to help get permits, according to court documents.
The city never approved the project and Tran failed to win re-election to the council in 2009, losing by a single vote.
T.W. told the FBI in 2009 that Tran was loaned money in exchange for his promise to help get permits for the construction project, according to the plea agreement.
A superseding indictment dated March 2013 charged Tran with bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, two counts of extortion, three counts of attempted witness tampering by corrupt persuasion and one count of making a false statement to a government agency, the FBI.
He admitted to one count of the attempted witness tampering charge. According to the plea agreement, he met the witness, identified only as T.W.,at a Starbucks in Pasadena around 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2011. The meeting was under surveillance by the FBI. It was recorded and photographed.
T.W. showed Tran a document that appeared to be a grand jury subpoena and told him T.W. needed to testify before a grand jury. The FBI had given the witness the document. Tran instructed T.W. to tell the grand jury that T.W. had not met with him recently and hadn’t given him money.
“Defendant acted with corrupt intent that he intended that T.W. provide false information to a federal grand jury,” the plea agreement showed.
Tran also admitted to lying to the FBI during an interview at his home on Sept. 27, 2011.
“During the interview, the defendant falsely stated and represented that T.W. had not made any payments to him other than campaign contributions of probably a $1,000 to $2,000. Defendant acted willfully in that he knowingly and intentionally provided false information to the FBI,” according to the plea agreement.
“The false statements were material to the FBI’s investigation into whether (Tran) had accepted bribes from, or had extorted T.W.”
Tran was elected to the Rosemead City Council in 2005 and served as mayor from 2007 to 2009, according to court documents.
This article was written by Ruby Gonzales and originally published on sgvtribune