CBMWD tells HMG-CN that only two Directors had the subpoena.
By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
(Commerce) Officials at the Central Basin Municipal Water District are demanding that the United States Attorney’s Office as well as the Los Angeles County District Attorney “aggressively investigate” how a confidential federal subpoena landed in the possession of a 73- year old outspoken community activist from Compton.
Lorraine Cervantes, a good friend of CBMWD Director Leticia Vasquez, confirmed to Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper in a phone interview on Thursday that she received a copy of a confidential federal subpoena “from the courthouse” relating to a massive criminal probe currently being conducted by federal investigators at the Commerce-based public water agency.
On July 8th 2014, Cervantes addressed the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board of Directors during Public Comment, demanding that CBMWD Board President Phil Hawkins, who removed Vasquez from her seat on the MWD Board, be removed from the MWD Board because “he is currently subject of an FBI criminal investigation”.
She then provided a “packet of documents” which included a copy of the subpoena, to Metropolitan Water District staff for distribution.
MWD then forwarded a copy of the packet to CBMWD.
The document Cervantes turned over to MWD officials was altered, and could land Cervantes in legal hot water, as well as others who may have participated in the altering of the document.
The sternly written request to both Andre Birotte, who heads the US Attorney’s Office here in Los Angeles, as well as DA Jackie Lacey, was signed by Phil Hawkins, who serves as the current President of the Board of Directors of the CBMWD.
Hawkins, a longtime resident of Cerritos, told Birotte and Lacey in his letter:
“On July 28th 2014, the Central Basin Municipal Water District (CBMWD) Board directed its staff to conduct an investigation into how a copy of a confidential federal grand jury subpoena came into the possession of a private citizen. The private citizen, Ms. Lorraine Cervantes, addressed the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board during Public Comment on July 8 2014, and then provided a packet of documents, which included a copy of the subpoena, to Metropolitan Water District staff for distribution. MWD then forwarded a copy of the packet to CBMWD.”
“Upon closer inspection of the copy of the subpoena, it was discovered that the document did not match the original subpoena in CBMWD’s files: it appeared the subpoena’s attachment page – which described the information requested by the federal authorities – had been altered to falsely include text and names that were not part of the original subpoena. Moreover, the portion of the cover letter from the prosecutor which instructs that the contents of this subpoena may not be publicly disclosed, and that such disclosure may constitute a violation under the United States criminal code, was missing,” Hawkins continued.
“CBMWD Special Counsel Arent Fox advised the District that tampering with and then distributing a confidential federal subpoena is a very serious criminal act which could be punishable under both federal and state criminal laws, and that law enforcement should be notified. I directed the General Manager to instruct Arent Fox to inform the U.S. Attorney’s office of the fraudulent federal subpoena being distributed by Ms. Cervantes. Arent Fox has informed the District that the U.S. Attorney’s office has been notified of these facts,” Hawkins stressed.
“Unfortunately, it is my opinion that it is highly likely the subpoena in Ms. Cervantes’ possession originated from within the District”’ Hawkins continued.
“Leaking of a subpoena to the public is by itself a serious crime, one which undermines the public’s confidence in the integrity of institutions such as the grand jury. But altering a law enforcement document and making false representations about it is especially heinous. Ms. Cervantes’ actions and those guilty of leaking confidential federal documents is an expensive distraction which inhibits the pursuit of the District’s mission, and could expose the District to costly litigation. I am strongly urging law enforcement to aggressively investigate this case, and to prosecute the guilty parties if warranted,” Hawkins wrote.
Hawkins then writes Birotte and Lacey, “This request is driven by sound public policy, and I would greatly appreciate a prompt response. The integrity of our public agency is at question and the possible involvement of any member of the CBMWD is of grave and important public concern.”
General Manager Tony Perez told HMG-CN in an interview that he was “shocked, when I first found out about this situation.”
“It is discouraging that this has taken place. We are going to conduct an investigation to find out how this happened, and who was involved.”
When asked by HMG-CN who could have leaked the subpoena and given it to Ms. Cervantes, CBMWD Director Art Chacon replied, “Not many people had a copy of the subpoena, just a couple of the directors. I would look at those who had a copy and also have a relationship with Ms. Cervantes.”
CBMWD Director Leticia Vasquez and Cervantes previously worked together while Cervantes served as a Trustee on the El Camino Community College Board, the same college where Vasquez works as an instructor.
They have been recently seen accompanying each other to CBMWD meetings, and have been longtime friends and political allies for years.
In her conversation with HMG-CN Cervantes went on the record saying that the subpoena she gave to MWD was from the “courthouse.” Cervantes said she “went down to the courthouse and the lady at the window gave me all the documents.” When pressed further and told she could be arrested for altering a federal subpoena, Cervantes became defensive and said, ”a bunny spit it out of his mouth.”
Quite obviously Cervantes lied to HMG-CN about where she got the subpoenas. So the question remains where Cervantes got the forged subpoena and Director Chacon’s statement about “just a couple Director’s had the subpoena,” will be of interest to investigators.
Sources close to the District indicate that Vasquez was “furious” when she was recently replaced on the MWD Board by Hawkins.
Of greater interest is Vasquez’ relationship with Angel Gonzales, who financed Vasquez’ successful campaign for CBMWD Director and who still remain close friends.
The Los Angeles-based printer Gonzalez plead down to a misdemeanor after he was accused of conspiring to publish a “hit piece” campaign mailer that contained false depictions of official documents. The mailer, which falsely claimed that a candidate had been disqualified from the ballot, used the official seals of California and the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Using fake depictions of public documents does violate election code laws.
HMG-CN asked for comments from Leticia and she evaded the questions and once again made threats of a lawsuit against HMG-CN.
In 2012, after a series of articles outlining Vasquez’ connection to Gonzales, spending taxpayer dollars she directed then-CBMWD attorney Rick Olivarez to research filing a personal defamation lawsuit against HMG-CN.
In a two page report, Olivarez outlined the many reasons she could not file a lawsuit against HMG-CN and rejected her proposal.
Sources tell HMG-CN that, like Phil Hawkins, Vasquez was furious at Olivarez for reporting that she could not sue HMG-CN, and their relationship deteriorated from there leading to his eventual removal.
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