Former Lynwood council members convicted

LYNWOOD - A jury Tuesday found two former Lynwood City Council members guilty of misappropriating nearly $500,000 under several different schemes, including charging personal expenses on city credit cards, the District Attorney's office announced.A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated about four days before finding Louis Byrd, 80, and Fernando Pedroza, 47, guilty of one count each of misappropriation of public money and an allegation of taking in excess of $65,000, said Deputy District Attorneys Ed Miller and Sean Hassett, who prosecuted the case. The two were taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read. They return for sentencing Aug. 27 before Compton Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter. Byrd is facing six years in state prison. Pedroza is facing five years in state prison. The D.A.'s Public Integrity Division discovered the crimes through a four-year investigation launched on April 15, 2003, 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 Sept. 5. 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. Prosecutors argued that the work council members performed in connection with these agencies was nothing beyond the normal responsibilities for a council member and they were not entitled to additional pay. They 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 an evening at a gentleman's club that included a dancer and private room.

********** Published: August 02, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 16