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Salgado admits to bribes

LOS ANGELES – The former chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Robert Salgado Sr., pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to felony charges in federal court for accepting nearly $875,000 in bribes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The 68-year-old’s charges also included filing a fraudulent tax return. In a plea agreement, Salgado admitted to accepting payments from five vendors doing or hoping to do business with the Southern California tribe. The payments were made in the form of cash, payments made out to Salgado’s creditors and checks payable to an entity controlled by Salgado, the U.S. Attorney said.

Salgado admitted to receiving $486,152 from a vendor involved in the $12.5 million purchase of a golf course and country club and other real estate purchases. He admitted to taking $184,000 in bribes from another vendor who was awarded food concession and other contracts at the Soboba Casino, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. That vendor helped FBI agents gather evidence against Salgado by setting up a bribe with FBI funds while wearing a wire, according to news reports.

Salgado admitted to taking $89,000 from a construction vendor for contracts with the Soboba Bank. He admitted to taking $65,843 in bribes plus “substantial cash payments which cannot be quantified” from another construction vendor and $50,000 from the owner of a valet company, California Parking Services, Inc., the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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Salgado also pleaded guilty for filing a fraudulent tax return that claimed he earned just $146,114 when he made “substantially in excess of that amount” and owes the IRS $226,187 in back taxes from the years 2002 to 2006, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

An investigation of Salgado was initiated after a tribal member alerted authorities, according to news reports, citing court documents. Salgado was the on and off chairman of the tribe for 33 years and held the position when he was indicted on the charges. He was placed on leave by the tribe and later resigned.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 2011 and faces a statutory maximum sentence of 13 years in federal prison, which will be determined by a judge.