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L.A. County Sheriff’s Employee & Commerce Mayor Sponsor Pot Bus to Las Vegas

COMMERCE MAYOR and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department employee John Soria, foreground, on his pot-sponsored City-leased bus to Las Vegas.

BY BRIAN HEWS

John Soria is the Mayor of Commerce, a tiny town in Los Angeles county that has the biggest card room in the world, the Commerce Casino, along with one of the biggest high-end outlet malls in the country, the Citadel.

As Mayor of a city that has huge investment opportunities around the Citadel and the Casino, one would think Soria would work hard to enhance the City’s image to attract much needed investment, which would increase tax revenue and give the City money to augment public services and increase public safety.

But Soria has apparently chosen another route, a self-aggrandizing strategy that involves working with questionable cannabis businesses and convicted felons, including disgraced former Bell Gardens City Councilman Mario Beltran.

It is a route that would likely anger his boss, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva; Soria works for the L.A. County Sheriff’s as a Law Enforcement Technician, a position that makes a maximum of $61,000 per year, which could explain his foray into supporting Commerce pot businesses and felons.

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained several pictures posted on social media that show Soria endorsing binge drinking and public drunkenness, all while blatantly supporting cannabis companies that obtained licenses in the city via an extremely questionable process.

The process, as reported exclusively by HMG-LCCN, included paying Renea Ferrel, a former grant writer from Compton with a questionable background, $190,000 to screen cannabis applicants.

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The City also paid Ebony McGee Andersen, a current multi-level marketing salesperson, $210,000 to establish an award process for the cannabis applicants.

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Both miserably failed because neither had experience in cannabis screening prior to working for Soria.

Several legitimate applicants who have licenses in other cities, some winning the licenses as the highest rated company, were excluded from the selection process.

Many vehemently complained at a recent City Council meeting that the process set up by Ferrel and Andersen was “tainted.”

The pictures show Soria sponsoring a trip on November 22 to Las Vegas, using a City-leased bus loaded with officials, local Teamster union representatives, and Carlos Maravilla, a candidate running for City Council in Commerce.

The word loaded was key to the trip.

Soria branded the trip “Canna Bus to Las Vegas, ”designing a professional logo that included the city of Commerce’s name prominently displayed inside the famous Las Vegas sign logo, along with an Ace card that had a pot leaf. 

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 It is unknown if Soria asked for permission to use the Las Vegas sign logo or who paid for the logo.

Seen in one of several pictures posted on the Commerce Now Facebook page is Soria on the City-leased bus, with what looks like a large beer in hand, and several officials, including candidate Maravilla, smiling broadly wearing his Teamsters t-shirt.

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Sources have told HMG-LCCN that it is against Commerce City policy to drink alcohol on a City-leased bus.

Soria typed a phrase below the Facebook post, “CannaBus to Vegas. Puro pariiii!!! b4 the pariii!” 

Puro pari was used by two Los Angeles radio hosts when they talked about partying and getting extremely drunk, to the point of throwing up.

 Puro is drinking hard, pari is “puking” afterward.

In another picture, Soria is seen with Maravilla and former Bell Gardens Councilman Mario Beltran, who is often seen in cities that are pushing for cannabis licenses.

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CANNA BUS: from (l-r) Mario Beltran, John Soria, and Commerce Council candidate Carlos Maravilla. Note Maravilla’s t-shirt has a pot leaf inside the Teamster’s logo.

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Beltran was accused by prosecutors of embezzling campaign funds from Ron Calderon to pay for his legal defense in a 2006 criminal case. Beltran pleaded guilty to four counts.

Seven counts of grand theft, one count of perjury and one count of failing to deposit cash was dismissed at sentencing as part of Beltran’s negotiated plea agreement.

In addition, Beltran was accused of filing a false police report when he solicited a prostitute at a seedy hotel in 2013. The prostitute reportedly beat Beltran up and stole his Bell Gardens police badge.

Yet there was Soria and Maravilla, in front of the Canna Bus to Las Vegas logo, both smiling with convicted felon Mario Beltran.

The pictures could have many calling for Soria’s ouster from his Sheriff’s Department position given his credibility and judgement in courting a convicted felon. 

Soria’s job description calls for interaction between station personnel, other law enforcement agencies, and emergency service organizations.

He also acts as a liaison to other public agencies and private organizations involved in crime prevention. 

And most important, Soria assists in the investigation of alleged violations of laws and regulations by gathering, assembling, and examining a variety of records and data pertinent to the case being investigated.

“Seems like that Canna Bus to Vegas and hanging out with Mario Beltran goes against everything the Sheriff stands for,” said one Commerce resident who did not want to be identified, “not to mention the stain he placed on the City with that stupid logo.”

“And what’s with Carlos Maravila, the Commerce Council candidate who also hangs around felons, I wonder what his Teamster bosses would think of that?”

Several texts into Soria went unreturned.

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