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Former LA Department of Water and Power chief agrees to plead guilty to bribery

David Wright lied to an FBI agent when asked if he had financial interests in a company created by former LA Department of Water and Power attorney Paul Paradis.

(CN) — David Wright, the former general manger of LA's Department of Water and Power, agreed to plead guilty on Monday to one count of bribery in charges stem from his relationship with a former department attorney, who also agreed to a guilty plea for one bribery charge last week.

Wright, who ran the country's largest largest municipal water agency from 2016 to 2019, "developed a close personal relationship" with former LA DWP attorney Paul Paradis early in his tenure, according to Wright's plea agreement. By early 2017, they had come to a deal: Paradis would start a new company, Aventador, named for a Lamborghini sports car model (itself named after a Spanish fighting bull). Wright would convince senior DWP staff and board members to support awarding Aventador a "no-bid" $30 million contract. In exchange, Wright would become CEO of the new company upon retiring from the DWP and obtain a $1 million salary and luxury company car.

Wright's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In presenting the contract to the five-member board, Wright cited a report by the independent monitor, saying that the DWP could not meet its court-ordered obligation to ratepayers unless it contracted with Aventador. Little did the board know that Paradis had ghostwritten the report.

In 2018, Wright and Paradis flew to Israel as part of a delegation. There they met with officials from a company "that provided cybersecurity training to governmental and business organizations" — known in the plea deal only as "Cyber Company." Wright and Paradis decided to invest in the company, and bring a facility to Los Angeles. Paradis put in $5 million in "capital." Wright would lobby the DWP to hand "Cyber Company" a five-year cybersecurity training contract, worth $3 million a year.

"Wright would use his position and influence at LADWP to convince the LADWP board to support and vote in favor of this expenditure, which both defendant Wright and Paradis knew and intended would secretly benefit them both financially," the plea agreement states.

By 2019, allegations began swirl around Paradis's double-dealing, representing both the DWP's interests and the interests of a ratepayer suing the water agency. As part of the scheme, Paradis received a $2 million kickback. In March 2019, Paradis began cooperating with the FBI. Shortly thereafter, he met with Wright, who was scared their relationship would become public.

According to the plea agreement, he told Paradis, "Okay, so I’m going to say something that you get to read between the lines. But if all, if any of that stuff" – meaning their text messages – "somehow wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be unhappy."

Paradis agreed to delete Wright's text messages and emails and to wipe clean a laptop that Wright had used. Wright said he already destroyed a “shitload” of physical evidence.

"I literally went through every single drawer and threw everything away," Wright later said.

Wright wasn't done scheming with Paradis. After changing the name of Aventador to Ardent, Wright proposed creating yet another company "to find cybersecurity issues that Ardent or a successor company would then fix."

“So you grab both ends?" Paradis asked. "That’s going to take more thought because—"

“Because it’s illegal,” Wright interjected, according to the plea agreement.

“Well, it’s illegal, it’s illegal, but that never stopped us, right?” Paradis said, laughing.

Wright laughed as well.

On June 6, 2019, Wright lied to an FBI agent, when asked if he had any financial or business interest with Aventador or a successor company. Less than two months later, agents raided DWP's headquarters, and Mayor Eric Garcetti removed Wright from office.

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