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Two sentenced on reduced charges in South Bay cases

Two figures in the corruption cases, involving officials from various South Bay school districts and others outside the districts, were sentenced Monday on reduced misdemeanor charges.

Raj Chopra and Gary Cabello had earlier pleaded guilty on a lighter set of charges than they initially faced, as have many of the others in the widespread pay-for-play investigation.

A total of 18 individuals have faced criminal charges in the case, on accusations that date back several years and center on gifts provided to school officials responsible for awarding construction contracts.

Cabello -- a bond underwriter who was a central figure in the widespread pay-for-play case -- was actually scheduled to receive a sentence on an already-reduced set of two felony charges.

The plea bargain he entered court on Monday was adjusted even further, as Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Ana Espana reduced the two felony counts to misdemeanors for Cabello's cooperation as a witness during the investigation.

When initially indicted, he faced 11 counts -- including five conspiracy charges, four counts of "offering a valuable thing" (specifically, various gifts) to a governing board member -- and two counts of offering bribes.

Cabello's former employers, Alta Vista Financial Inc. and Cabrera Capital Markets LLC, served as the underwriters for more than $300 million in bonds for Southwestern Community College District and Sweetwater Union High School District.

Represented by Stacie Patterson, of the Law Office of Stacie L. Patterson, Cabello was sentenced to three years' probation, about $8,000 in fines and 100 hours of community service.

Chopra, the former president of Southwestern College, was also sentenced to three years of probation and fined $4,500; he had already performed 42 hours of community service.

Sentenced on one misdemeanor count of failing to report income during the 2009-2010 year, Chopra initially faced nine felonies, including perjury by declaration, receiving a bribe, wrongful influence of a public official and conflict of interest. Chopra's attorney was Michael Attansio, of Cooley LLP.

Espana re-scheduled to April 29 the sentencing of Yolanda Hernandez, San Ysidro School District Governing Board member, who was also on the court calendar Monday after pleading guilty last October on a count of misdemeanor perjury.

Hernandez' attorney, Michael Crowley of Crowley Law Group, was unable to be in court because of a time conflict with another trial.

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