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Central Basin GM, Consulting Firm CEO Charged With Money Laundering While Serving in Their Official Positions

 August 23, 2022

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced yesterday that then-Bassett Unified School District Superintendent and current Central Basin Water GM Alejandro Rojas and Del Terra Chief Executive Officer Luis Rojas have been charged for their roles in a Bassett scheme to bilk more than $1.4 million in public funds for their own personal gain.

“Illegally diverting voter-approved bond money from schools not only deprives our children of already scarce resources but also diminishes the public’s trust in and support for our educational institutions,” District Attorney Gascón said. 

Alex Rojas and Luis Rojas (not related) were each charged with 12 counts of money laundering and one count each of soliciting a bribe and grand theft by embezzlement. Alejandro Rojas also faces three counts of perjury and one count of conflict of interest.

They made their initial court appearance today. Arraignment was continued to October 26 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

The two defendants are accused of illegally using a portion of a voter-approved $30 million bond that was earmarked for construction and program management services for the Bassett Unified School District.

Alex Rojas served as the district superintendent between April 2014 and May 2017. Luis Rojas was CEO of Del Terra, which had been hired to oversee school district construction projects.

Between April 2015 and September 2016, Alex Rojas allegedly approved more than $1 million in Del Terra invoices for work that was never done.

Attorneys for Del Terra and Rojas deny the allegations that were solely sourced from a report written by Francisco Leal, a controversial attorney and known associate of Central Basin Water Director Leticia Vasquez, a constant Alex Rojas critic despite the agency’s financial turnaround.

A statement from Rojas’ attorneys read, “Del Terra and Mr. Rojas vehemently deny the allegations. We believe this all stems from an inaccurate and defamatory report created by the Leal and Trejo law firm. We believe this will be proven through the court process. We have serious questions as to what authority this defective report was originally initiated. It is obvious the district attorney failed to do proper and responsible due diligence on the allegations and information provided to them by Leal and Trejo and the District.”

The firm of Leal and Trejo have a very questionable history. In 2012 Leal was fired by the city of Huntington Park after HMG-CN revealed that the firm was paid more than $30,000 per month by the then-cash-strapped city.

After the HMG-CN story, KCET aired an investigative segment that focused on Leal and how he simultaneously represented the So Cal. Water Replenishment District (WRD) and another obscure public agency connected with Huntington Park.

KCET posted, “Francisco Leal has made millions as an attorney for Huntington Park and other southeast L.A. cities. He’s moved from town to town for years, often serving as a lobbyist and a contract city attorney. In 2005, he was terminated from his job as lobbyist and city attorney of Commerce. He settled with the city and agreed to pay $70,000. Questions about his firm have been raised in places like Lynwood and Alhambra, but not in Huntington Park. Since 2000, the city has paid Leal’s various firms over $4 million to be a lobbyist, the city attorney, and legal counsel for the city’s redevelopment department.”

According to KCET, when an issue came up concerning WRD, Leal didn’t tell the public at a meeting that he was also the attorney for the WRD.

Three neighboring cities — Cerritos, Downey, and Signal Hill — were suing WRD, claiming their water charges were unfair. Huntington Park was one of a handful of cities that sided with WRD in that lawsuit.

At the time, Leal was paid to represent the WRD and his lobbying firm was paid by the WRD for community outreach. His firm had billed WRD over a million dollars, while at the same time collecting $37,500 a month from Huntington Park

 

KCET: Controversy Brewing in Huntington Park Over Water District, City Attorney

 

The attorney’s statement went on to read, “We look forward to vigorously cross-examining Mr. Leal, his investigative team, and [Bassett] District Personnel. In the coming weeks, we will be demanding documents from the District which we believe will undermine and prove our innocence and will demonstrate the fatally flawed nature of this report and its allegations.

“We further believe these allegations are in retaliation for Del Terra’s lawsuit against the {Bassett] District for Breach of Contract and failure to provide payment for services provided. This improper motivation further tainted any allegations made to the district attorney’s office which found its’ way into these charges.”

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