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South Bay corruption cases end with two jail sentences

The South Bay criminal cases against what San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis once called "the worst cases of corruption" she'd ever seen, are closed.

The final sentence in the 18 pay-for-play cases — all of which led to a conviction of some degree — was handed down Friday when Jesus Gandara, former superintendent of Sweetwater Union High School District, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 160 days in custody under the County Parole and Alternative Custody program.

Gandara joined Greg Sandoval, both a former SUHSD Board member and Southwestern College vice president, as one of only two defendants to be sentenced to actual jail time.

Sandoval was sentenced June 20 to serve 45 days in jail and 135 in the CPAC program. Both were convicted on a felony charge of conspiracy to commit bribery and a misdemeanor charge of receiving gifts from a single source worth more than the legal amount.

“The fact that some charges were reduced or dismissed during the pendency of these cases does not diminish the fact that justice was ultimately obtained, public officials were held accountable for their criminal behavior, and a culture of corruption has been dismantled,” Dumanis said in a released statement. “Deputy DAs Leon Schorr, Tiffany Scott and DA Investigator Vince Giaime did an outstanding job prosecuting this long and complicated case.”

The probe uncovered years of corruption in which multiple school officials from SUHSD, the San Ysidro School District and Southwestern College received gifts from construction contractors before and after district votes involving the contractors. Plea arrangements and sentences came in bunches over the past two years.

The convictions led to eight guilty pleas to felony crimes, 12 guilty pleas to misdemeanor crimes, more than $80,000 in fines and orders for 1,140 hours of community service. Aside from Gandara and Sandoval, the other SUHSD officials convicted — all since removed from office — included Pearl Quinones, Arlie Ricasa, Bertha Lopez and Jim Cartmill.

Other former Southwestern College officials were former Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs Nick Alioto, former facilities director John Wilson, former board members Jorge Dominguez and Yolanda Salcido, and former President Raj Chopra. Former San Ysidro School District Superintendent Manuel Paul and former SYSD board member Yolanda Hernandez were the two convicted officials from that district.

Of the 18, five were from outside the public schools. They included bond underwriter Gary Cabello, BCA Architects owner Paul Bunton, Seville Group Inc. owner Rene Flores, Seville Construction Services owner Jeff Flores and Henry Amigable, who had worked for both Gilbane Construction and Seville Construction Services. The rest of the defendants were public school officials who eventually admitted to engaging in some kind of unlawful conduct with the five.

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Southwestern College

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900 Otay Lakes Rd.
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Southwestern College Executive(s):

Melinda Nish

  • President, Superintendent

Kathy Tyner

  • Vice President, Academic Affiars

Dr. Angelica Suarez

  • Vice President, Student Affairs

Steve Crow

  • Vice President, Business & Financial Affairs

John Clark

  • Vice President, Human Resources

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