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Cerritos Resident & Bell City Manager Charged in Fraud Scheme

Cerritos resident Paul Phillips

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former California lawmaker who spent four years in prison for corruption has been charged in the alleged theft of $20 million from a Los Angeles suburb that invested in a failed solar power project, prosecutors announced Friday.

Frank Hill and three other men were charged in a 12-county complaint.

Also charged was Bell City Manager and Cerritos resident Paul Phillips, and William Barkett.

Hill faces two counts of having an improper financial interest in a contract while the others — including a former City of Industry official — face allegations ranging from misappropriating public funds to money laundering and grand theft, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Hill served in the state Assembly and Senate between 1982 and 1994, when he was convicted of corruption in an FBI sting operation and spent four years in prison.

The latest charges involve $20 million that the City of Industry paid to San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC for land leasing and the possible construction of a 450-megawatt solar project that never broke ground and eventually was canceled.

Prosecutors charged company owner William Barkett of La Jolla; former Industry City Manager Paul Philips, who is now city manager in the city of Bell; attorney Anthony Bouza and Hill.

Philips’ Cerritos house was raided in 2020 by the D.A.

 

DA Raid Snags Bell City Manager and Cerritos Resident Paul Philips

 

Philips and Bouza allegedly helped draft the agreement and handled the funds, which between 2016 and 2018 were routed to an account controlled by Barkett, according to the district attorney’s office.

“While some of the money was paid to other vendors, 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’s office said in a statement.

Hill was a private contractor retained by the city. He and Bouza “are accused of having a financial conflict of interest when they allegedly drafted or influenced contracts with the city,” the statement said.

Philips’ attorney, former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, told the Pasadena Star-News that his client is innocent and “we will prove it.”

Peter Sunukjian, who represents Barkett in a separate civil case filed by Industry, declined to comment while former Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who represents Hill in the same civil case, didn’t return a request for comment, the Star-News said.

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