Record Bribe Gets|SoCal Official Five Years

     RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A Moreno Valley city councilman who took “the largest bribe ever accepted by a public official in an undercover operation” will spend five years in prison for it, federal prosecutors said.
     Marcelo Co, 64, took a $2.36 million cash bribe from an undercover agent posing as a real estate broker, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     He was sentenced Monday, after pleading guilty last year to bribery and filing a false tax return.
     Moreno Valley, pop. 202,000, is east of Riverside, at the southeastern end of the Los Angeles Basin smog belt. It was the fastest-growing city in the nation in the 1980s.
     Co told a businessman and an undercover agent that he controlled a majority on the council and could guarantee decisions on land use, the U.S. attorney said in a statement.
     He took payments of $5,000 and $10,000 from the FBI agent and the businessman, who was cooperating with the FBI, and said he would use it for City Council campaigns for candidates who would vote with him on land use issues, prosecutors said.
     Co set the record for cash bribery, the U.S. attorney said, when he agreed to sell the businessman a 30-acre parcel Co owned, appraised at $710,000, for $5.36 million. Co said he would rezone to property to increase its value, and list the sale price as $3 million, in exchange for the $2.36 million cash bribe.
     Co was elected to the council in 2010, and resigned in 2013, after being charged in another case, the U.S. attorney said.
     Rezoning land for commercial use can increase its value.

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