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Palmdale man is sentenced in county bribery scheme

Prosecutors asked for three-year term

City News Service | 7/31/2020, midnight

A Palmdale man who paid bribes to secure lucrative contracts from Los Angeles County for his low voltage wiring company – Tel-Pro – received a two-year prison sentence this week.

Enrique Contreras, 39, bribed two county officials with payments totaling $600,000. In an effort to conceal the bribes and lower his company’s taxable income, he falsely claimed that some of the bribes, along with other personal expenses, were legitimate business expenses, according to his plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Due to these fraudulent deductions, Contreras failed to report a total of $636,454 in income for 2013 to 2017 and currently owes $221,366 in unpaid taxes.

In May 2019, Contreras pleaded guilty to federal counts of paying bribes and signing a false tax return, and cooperated with the government. He then deposited $821,366 with the court clerk to satisfy his restitution obligations prior to sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors are recommending that he be sentenced to three years behind bars, followed by three years on supervised release. Contreras’ own sentencing position is filed with the court under seal.

Mohammad R. Tirmazi, 51, a former official with the county’s Internal Services Department, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and signing a false tax return. The Upland man was sentenced last month to a year in federal prison for accepting nearly $300,000 in bribes from Contreras and then failing to report the income from those bribes and a side business on his federal tax returns.

In exchange for the bribes, Tirmazi approved change orders requested by Contreras for, among other things, work that did not occur and materials that were not used on county projects. Tirmazi also admitted that he did not report, or force Contreras to correct, violations of the county’s Building and Safety Code or the National Electrical Code that Tirmazi uncovered during inspections of Tel-Pro’s work.