'Godfather of Camp Pendleton' Pleads Guilty
SAN DIEGO (CN) - Six government contractors, two corporations and a Defense Department employee who called himself the "Godfather of Camp Pendleton" pleaded guilty to bribery and kickback charges, federal prosecutors said.
Natividad "Nate" Lara Cervantes, 64, the Pentagon employee, called himself the Godfather of the sprawling Marine base north of San Diego. He used his job supervising construction and service contracts to solicit, and take, bribes and kickbacks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a long statement.
The guilty pleas came in a period of 10 days, ending Friday.
Also pleading guilty were prime contractors Hugo Hernandez Alonso, 50, and his company, Hugo Alonso, Inc., both of Chula Vista;
and Bayani Yabut Abueg Jr., 51, of San Diego, and his company, MBR Associates, of National City;
subcontractors Paul Dana Kay, 66, of Santee, with PK Excavation;
Manuel Ramirez, 47, of San Diego, with MRN Construction;
Gerardo Ricardo Mercado, 55, of National City;
and Raul Mercado, 52, both of Blue Ocean Construction.
Only the first two corporations entered guilty pleas.
Cervantes called a $25,000 bribe a "25 package."
Camp Pendleton, 125,000 acres of prime coastal real estate north of San Diego, is the biggest U.S. Marine base on the West Coast.
Marines who have served there say the base is a major conduit for smuggling of drugs and guns, in its strategic position between San Diego and Los Angeles. Drugs generally go north. Guns go north to L.A., sometimes to gangs, and south to Mexico, sometimes to drug cartels, according to Marines and another well-placed source.
Guns are often taken from the Marines' armory and sent to their illegal buyers, the Marines and the source said.
Cervantes faces up to 15 years in prison and three times the amount of his bribes, for the bribery count.
Cervantes, Alonso and Hugo Alonso Inc. face fines of $250,000 or twice the amount of their profits from conspiring to bribe a public official, and the humans face up to 5 years in prison.
All the defendants face fines of $250,000 or twice their gross gain from the offense for kickbacks, and the human face up to 10 years in prison.
Abueg faces up to 3 years in prison and a $250,000 for filing a false tax return.