FORMER TOP OFFICIAL WITH INLAND EMPIRE INDIAN TRIBE SENTENCED TO 41 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR TAKING BRIBES
LOS ANGELES – The former chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians was sentenced this afternoon to 41 months in federal prison for taking approximately $875,000 in bribes from tribal vendors and concealing that income from the Internal Revenue Service.
Robert Salgado Sr., 68, who lives on the Soboba Reservation near San Jacinto, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. In addition to the prison term, which Salgado must begin serving by June 20, Judge Pregerson ordered the defendant to pay $226,187 in back taxes to the IRS.
Salgado pleaded guilty in October to two felony charges – bribery and subscribing to a false tax return. Salgado pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial in United States District Court.
In a plea agreement filed in court, Salgado admitted that he accepted a total of $874,995 in bribe payments from five vendors who did business with the Soboba Band. The payments to Salgado, which were made by vendors hoping to obtain or keep contracts with the tribe, were given to Salgado in the form of cash, payments made to his creditors and checks payable to an entity controlled by Salgado.
Salgado specifically admitted:
• receiving $486,152 from a vendor involved in the tribe’s $12.5 million purchase of a golf course now called The Country Club at Soboba Springs and other real estate purchases;
• taking approximately $184,000 in bribes from a second vendor who was awarded food concession and other contracts at the Soboba Casino;
• accepting bribes totaling $89,000 from a vendor who received a series of construction contracts from the Soboba Bank;
• taking $65,843 in bribes, plus “substantial cash payments which cannot be quantified,” from another vendor who received a series of construction contracts; and
• accepting a total of $50,000 in bribes from Abbas Shilleh, the owner of California Parking Services, Inc., which provided valet parking at the Soboba Casino.
In sentencing papers filed with the court, prosecutors asked for a prison sentence, stressing that Salgado “did not take one or two bribes. He took hundreds of them over the course of a decade. Defendant ran the tribe as if it belonged to him. Now he must pay the price.”
Salgado also pleaded guilty to a tax offense, admitting that he filed a 2001 tax return that claimed he and his wife earned $146,114, but in reality earned substantially more. In the plea agreement, Salgado admitted he also did not accurately report his income for tax years 2002 through 2006, failing to pay a total of $226,187 in taxes.
Shilleh, 47, of Diamond Bar, pleaded guilty last month and admitted he paid bribes to Salgado (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2011/030.html).
Shilleh is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pregerson on June 6.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS - Criminal Investigation.