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State ABC Official, Consultant Admit to Brewing Up Bribery Scheme While Overseeing Koreatown Bars

Wilbur Salao, left, a former official with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control inspects a club in the Los Angeles Koreatown district in 2015. (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Wilbur Salao, left, a former official with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control inspects a club in the Los Angeles Koreatown district in 2015. (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A former official with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and a Koreatown business consultant pleaded guilty on Thursday to a long-running scheme in which they turned a blind eye to alcohol-related violations in exchange for bribes, officials said.

Then-ABC Los Angeles Metro Office Administrator Wilbur Salao, 46, targeted Koreatown businesses that violated ABC enforcement operations, according to a U.S. District Attorney news release.  He, along with Koreatown consultant Scott Seo, 49, charged the businesses thousands of dollars to help them get around alcohol laws and enforcement.

The scam netted Seo’s consultancy business at least $60,000, prosecutors said. He turned over more than $28,000 of the bribes to Seo.

Officials said Seo sent Salao a list of businesses between 2014 and 2016 in which Salao would issue temporary licenses. This would allow the businesses running despite violations, even after hours.

Seo pleaded to one count of bribery and Salao pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in the federal case.

Salao is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28 and will face up to five years in federal prison, prosecutors said. Seo is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4 and could face up to 10 years.

Anyone with more information can call the FBI’s L.A.-area field office at 310-477-6565.