LYNWOOD - Two former Lynwood city council members were sentenced to state prison last week for misappropriating nearly $500,000 in city money, including charging personal expenses on city credit cards.Compton Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter sentenced Louis Byrd, 80, to five years in prison and Fernando Pedroza, 47, to four years following a lengthy hearing in which both men begged for leniency but refused to apologize for their actions, said deputy district attorneys Ed Miller and Sean Hassett, who prosecuted the case. After Pedroza apologized to his family, Judge Hunter asked if he was also apologizing to the people of Lynwood. "No," he said. Both men were convicted in July of one count each of misappropriation of public money along with an allegation that they took in excess of $65,000. Prosecutors argued that Byrd took about $330,000 for personal use and Pedroza took more than $160,000. Under one scheme, they paid themselves up to $40,000 a year in addition to their council pay for participating on two city agencies, the Lynwood Public Finance Authority and Lynwood Information Inc. Byrd and Pedroza also charged personal expenses on city credit cards. For example, during a May 2002 trip to Guadalajara, Mexico to attend a sister-city conference, Pedroza charged $1,500 on a city credit card to pay for a night at a strip club that included a dancer and private room. The D.A. Public Integrity Division discovered the crimes through a four-year investigation launched on April 15, 203, following a tip by a former Lynwood city manager. Five current and former council members were charged in May 2007. Charges against two, Armando Rea and Ricardo Sanchez, were later dismissed. Another former councilman, Arturo Reyes, pleaded guilty to grand theft and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 12.
********** Published: October 4, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 25