Former Santa Cruz County Assessor Pleads Guilty To Bribery

cash

The former Santa Cruz County Assessor Felipe Fuentes pleaded guilty last week for his role in a long-running bribery conspiracy that spanned much of his tenure as an elected official.

The 62-year-old Fuentes pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Wire Fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to Fuentes’ admissions in connection with the plea hearing, Fuentes and other co-conspirators engaged in a multi-year bribery scheme in which Fuentes received cash payments from a large landowner in Santa Cruz County. Fuentes admitted that, in exchange for the cash payments, he took various official acts in his capacity as the County Assessor to benefit the landowner, including reducing assessed values for properties owned by him and his business entities.

According to Fuentes’ plea agreement, in addition to the cash payments, the landowner also allowed Fuentes to use a 17-acre ranch owned by one of his business entities free of charge for multiple years during the course of the bribery conspiracy.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 2, 2022 before the Honorable Raner C. Collins, Senior United States District Judge.

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