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By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that John Chiang, current Treasurer of California and a leading candidate for Governor of California in 2018 was the headliner at a fundraiser on Monday June 26 at the Pico Rivera home of Steve Carmona, the Los Angeles Planning Commissioner arrested in 2007 for several federal crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud and accepting bribes.
When contacted by HMG-CN, the Chiang campaign indicated they were “misled” about the nature of the event.
Chiang representative Kate Chapek told HMG-CN, “Gustavo Camacho was the co-host (along with Ben Cardenas) of this event and gave us the event address. It was presumed that it was his (home) address.”
When contacted by HMG-CN Camacho told HMG-CN, “I did not think it was pertinent, that was their assumption.”
The event venue instead was 9549 Friendship Ave. in Pico Rivera; a title search using OC Title confirmed Steve Carmona owns the house.
Title search shows Carmona owns home at 9549 Friendship in Pico Rivera. Click on image to view larger document.
The fundraiser invite, obtained exclusively by HMG-CN, was sent to a large email list of potential campaign donors and was closely similar to other Chiang invitations obtained by HMG-CN.
John Chiang June 26 invite to Steve Carmona’s house. Click on image to view larger document.
Some officials knew about the fundraiser. Sources inside City Hall confirmed the Carmona address and told HMG-CN, “Mr. Carmona was very busy in the months prior to June pulling all sorts of building permits to renovate parts of his home.”
Those same sources told HMG-CN that “very high-ranking Pico Rivera officials and a few large local businesses” were present at the expensive event.
The Chiang campaign also confirmed the presence of those high-ticket donors at the event, sending HMG-CN a list of attendees at the Carmona House fundraiser.
And the Chiang campaign was evidently excited about the prospects of the fundraiser communicating in the email sent to HMG-CN, “here’s the revised & final briefing for Gustavo’s event. The event later is projected to raise $7,500 with $5,000 in. The goal is $30k.”
The guest list read like a Who’s-Who of East Los Angeles politicians.
According to the Chiang email, those in attendance included Camacho, Pico Rivera City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glassman, and Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) attorney Rick Olivares, son of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard.
MUSD Board Member Ben Cardenas, who is himself embroiled in controversy after the firing of MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas, was also present.
Cardenas was involved in several controversies at MUSD, as first reported by HMG-CN, leading eventually to an attempted cover-up and state audit of the school district.
The jet-setting Pico Rivera couple of Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros were on the list. They reportedly donated $5,000 to Chiang.
John Corcoran, president of Manhole Adjusting Contractors of Pico Rivera, known for donating tens of thousands to political campaigns, also attended, as did Fernando Lopez who operates the Pico Rivera Sports Arena.
According to newspaper reports, Carmona was arrested in 2009 in connection with a wide-ranging federal racketeering case that saw George Torres, owner of the Numero Uno grocery chain, accused of solicitation of murder, racketeering, bribery, and other crimes.
According to prosecutors at the time, Torres bribed Carmona. Prosecutors produced a series of audio tapes with Torres heard saying he gave Carmona Los Angeles Lakers tickets, use of a condominium’s address to make him eligible to sit on the planning commission, and a pickup truck, all to get a liquor license approved.
Carmona was caught on the tapes asking, “is there any bling-bling?” Prosecutors later said Torres gave Carmona Lakers tickets worth over $1,000, the condo, the new pick-up truck, over $6,000 worth of tires and rims, and a $15,000 check to split with Carmona’s then partner George Luk.
Carmona was arrested for the following crimes: Honest Service Wire Fraud, Honest Service Mail and Wire Fraud, Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds, False Statements on Loan Application, and Loan Fraud.
Then, prior to trial and according to documents obtained exclusively by HMG-CN, Carmona was placed in the U.S. Attorney’s Pretrial Diversion program.
Pretrial diversion removes a defendant from prosecution prior to a guilty plea; it is similar to probation and includes psychiatric care.
Carmona agreed to acknowledge responsibility for the violations, and completed the program in Oct. 2011.
The major donor fundraiser at Carmona’s house, which was a high-priced event similar to those that might take place in Beverly Hills, requested $5,000 to be listed as a “Host,” and $2,500 to be listed as a “Co-Host.”
The emailed flyer obtained exclusively by HMG-CN said, “you are cordially invited to a fundraiser with State Treasurer John Chiang in support of John Chiang for Governor.”
The name of the host of the event was not listed but the address on Friendship Ave. in Pico Rivera was printed on the flyer.
At the bottom of the flyer was “Paid for by John Chiang for Governor 2018 ID# 1385799, 16633 Ventura Blvd, #1008, Encino, CA 91436.”
When an attendee clicked on the “johnchiang.com/june26” link in the emailed flyer, the user was taken to a NGPVAN website with Chiang’s signature campaign picture on the page along with a registration form to fill out along with a corresponding donation amount. (See below).
A lengthy Chiang campaign donation disclaimer was included on the donation webpage with “Paid for by John Chiang for Governor” identification on the bottom.
The donation site was a part of the johnchiang.com website indicating that staff of Chiang’s campaign were well aware of the Carmona fundraiser.
HMG-CN also tested the donation system by donating one dollar; later an online credit card statement indicated the donation was cashiered by the John Chiang for Governor candidate’s committee
HMG-CN obtained several other Chiang fundraising flyers and, unlike the Carmona flyer, they all clearly identified who was hosting the fundraising event, sometimes listing over 15 names.
On all flyers the same “johnchiang.com/date” of the event link was used, which took the user to the same donation page listed on the Carmona flyer.
In addition, contained in the Chiang fundraiser invitations was a contact name of Alexandra Leard with an email Alexandra@electjohnchiang.com.
Although www.electjohnchiang.com is a registered URL, searching on the URL produces a “Parked Go Daddy” internet page.
The revelation of the event at Carmona’s house will most certainly raise eyebrows and cause observers to question Chiang’s judgment of holding such an event.
Chiang’s website boldly states, “John has a proven track record of increasing transparency and accessibility in state government and holding government officials accountable, conducting the State’s business in the most transparent manner possible.”
Calls into Gubernatorial candidates Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsome for comment went unreturned.