Six years ago, HBO aired an episode of “True Detective,” an anthology of complex crime stories.
It is set in the fictional city of Vinci, Southern California, a hotbed of corruption and crime clearly based on Vernon, once described as “the most corrupt five square miles in California.”
In addition to imagining Vernon’s sordid history, the episode is tucked away in the California bullet train project, but critics deservedly so because it’s incoherent.
Vernon, unfortunately, is not an isolated example. The southeastern quarter of Los Angeles County is riddled with municipal irregularities, and State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has dubbed it the “corruption corridor.” Several local officials were accused of bribery, self-dealing, and other abuses.
Last week, a Los Angeles County District Attorney charged four men, including former Senator Frank Hill, with stealing $20 million that the city of industry advanced to a company called San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC for a solar power project that never materialized. .
The case stems from a battle between several cities for control of a 2,500-acre cattle ranch called Tres Hermanos in Chino Hills, which was supposed to be the site of the project.
Hill, the Republican who got trapped in a federal investigation into Capitol corruption three decades ago and spent four years in prison, was a consultant on the project. Others facing charges are William Barkett, owner of San Gabriel Valley Water and Power, attorney Anthony Buzza, former City of Industry director Paul Phillips and now mayor of Peel City, which was the scene of another corruption scandal a decade ago.
Phillips and Buza allegedly handled the money, which was directed between 2016 and 2018 to an account controlled by Barkett, according to the attorney general’s office.
While some of the money was paid to other sellers, Barkett is accused of spending about $8.3 million on personal items. He also allegedly falsified or altered invoices to inflate the amount,” the DA office said.
Barkett is no stranger to questionable financial dealings. As I wrote about the Tres Hermanos dispute nine months ago, “In 1993, federal authorities revealed an indictment against him and eight other people involved in what was described as a small-stock scheme intended to defraud elderly retirees.
Two years later, the judge dismissed the charges, citing unreasonable pre-trial delays by the plaintiffs. A decade later, Credit Suisse, an international banking firm, accused Barkett of embezzling millions of dollars he had borrowed to start a large agricultural operation in the San Joaquin Valley. The lawsuit was later dropped after a confidential settlement.”
Barkett is a scion of the politically powerful Stockton family, and for the sake of full disclosure, the patriarch sued Ali and the Sacramento Union for defamation four decades ago after I wrote an article about his influence. We were acquitted by a jury in San Joaquin County.