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Ex-City Councilman Admits|He Took $2.3M Bribe in Sting

(CN) - A former Moreno Valley city councilman pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting a record $2.36 million bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a land broker.

Marcelo Co, 64, was charged with one count of bribery and one count of filing a false corporate tax return.

Prosecutors say the multimillion-dollar cash payment was the "largest bribe ever accepted by a public official in an undercover operation."

Before the money changed hands, authorities say, Co solicited $15,000 in campaign donations from the undercover agent and an unnamed businessman working with the FBI. Co allegedly told them the money would be used to fund the campaigns of council members who would vote with him on land-use issues.

Last fall, Co met with the undercover agent to discuss selling a 30-acre property that Co owned, prosecutors say. He told the broker that he could get the votes to change the zoning such that his property, which had been appraised at $710,000, would be worth millions, according to filing documents.

On Jan. 30, the former councilman agreed to sell the land to the broker for $5.36 million, $2.36 million of which he accepted in cash, authorities say.

He also promised to always vote for land-use decisions that would benefit the broker and businessman, and to steer his fellow council members to do the same, prosecutors say.

"Mr. Co regularly traded votes, land and confidential information in exchange for cash to fund his personal bank account, rather than what was in the best interest of the residents of Moreno Valley," said Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.

The tax charge stems from Co's alleged failure to report more than $112,000 in income from his company, Qwik Pack Solutions. It is not related to the bribery scheme, prosecutors say.

Co allegedly owes the Internal Revenue Service $31,000.

He was elected to a four-year term in 2010 but resigned in August 2013 after being charged in state court in an unrelated welfare fraud case, according to a press release.

He's expected to appear in court in the federal bribery case early next month.

Co faces up to 13 years in federal prison for the felony charges.

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