CALEXICO—On Thursday, June 11, Calexico City’s former Mayor Pro Tem and councilman, David Romero, and an ex-commissioner on the city’s Economic Development and Financial Advisory Commission, Bruno Suarez-Soto, pled guilty to corruption charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice announcement of their guilty plea notes that with the plea, the pair were “admitting that they accepted cash bribes in exchange for promises of official action by the city.”
Romero and Suarez-Soto allegedly accepted $35,000 in bribes from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent in late 2019 and early 2020. The agent claimed to represent several investors who were looking to open a cannabis dispensary in Calexico.
Court filings show that Romero and Suarez-Soto “guaranteed the rapid issuance of a city permit for the dispensary,” and agreed to “revoke or hinder other applicants if necessary” to ensure that the operative’s application was successful, in exchange for the bribe. Suarez-Soto apparently said that “this isn’t our first rodeo,” implying that the duo had been involved in similar schemes before.
The case prosecutors also allege that Romero and Suarez-Soto lied to the FBI. The former “falsely denied being part of any agreement” with, and making “guarantees” to, the agent. Suarez-Soto apparently denied both receipt of previous payments from the operative, as well as making guarantees to them.
Romero was originally to become the Calexico City Mayor in July this year. He and Suarez-Soto recently resigned from their respective roles.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal oversaw the federal court proceedings and scheduled the pair’s sentencing for September 4, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.