A former state senator is among three men due in court Tuesday in connection with the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars that was to be used to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be bought by the City of Industry.
A fourth man charged in the case — former City of Industry city manager Paul Jule Philips — is set to be arraigned Friday.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced the charges Friday involving the former city manager, the ex-state legislator, an attorney and a developer.
Philips is now the top administrator in the city of Bell.
Philips, 70, made his first appearance Friday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on one count of misappropriation of public funds, and is due back in court Friday for arraignment.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is representing Phillips, told the newspaper that his client is “innocent and wrongly charged.”
Meanwhile, former state Sen. Frank Hill, R-Whittier, attorney Anthony Bouza, 60, and La Jolla-based developer William Barkett, 63, are due in court Tuesday for arraignment.
Hill, 67, is charged with two counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.
Bouza is charged with one count of misappropriation of public funds and eight counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.
Barkett is charged with one count each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft.
The charges were filed Aug. 24, court records show.
“Public corruption erodes the trust of our citizenry and hampers progress. There is no place for it in Los Angeles County,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement announcing the charges.
The City of Industry entered into a land lease agreement between 2016 and 2018 with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC — which was owned by Barkett — to examine a potential solar farm and agreed to advance certain costs that had to be repaid if construction began.
Phillips and Bouza, an attorney hired by the city and a private contractor who allegedly helped draft an agreement, handled the funds, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Roughly $20 million in public funds was allegedly routed to an account controlled by Barkett during that time, in which some of the money was paid to other vendors and about $8.3 million was allegedly spent by Barkett on personal items, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Bouza and Hill are accused of having a financial conflict of interest when they allegedly drafted or influenced contracts with the city, according to the District Attorney’s Office, which noted that the case remains under investigation.
In a statement obtained by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Mayor Cory Moss said, “For years, the city has alleged that SGVWP and related parties submitted false and fraudulent invoices to the city for work that was never performed. It is my hope that the matter moves swiftly and that those who are responsible for this misuse of taxpayer funds are brought to justice.”
A civil case brought by the city — in which former Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is representing Hill — is still pending, the newspaper reported.
Hill served a 46-month prison sentence for his 1994 conviction on federal extortion and money laundering charges stemming from a $2,500 payment he took from federal undercover agents in an FBI sting operation.