Four men are facing felony charges for allegedly embezzling approximately millions of dollars from what was supposed to be a solar farm project for the City of Industry, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Friday.
Those allegedly involved in the scheme were identified as William Barkett, 63; Anthony Bouza, 60; Paul Jule Philips, 70; and Frank Hill, 67. Philips is the City of Industry’s former city manager and currently holds the same position in Bell.
The city worked with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC on a potential solar farm between 2016 and 2018, during which time the city paid for costs that were to be reimbursed if construction began, according to the DA’s office.
Barkett, the owner of SGVWP, is accused of receiving about $20 million in public funds, of which he allegedly spent about $8.3 million on personal items.
He then changed or falsified paperwork to cover up the embezzlement by inflating invoice amounts, according to the DA’s office.
Barkett faces four total counts: embezzlement, money laundering, grand theft and misappropriation of public funds.
For their roles in the alleged scheme, charges are also being filed against Philips and Bouza, an attorney and private contractor hired by the city.
Philips has been charged with one count of misappropriation of public funds, while Bouza, who allegedly helped create an agreement, faces nine counts: one charge of misappropriation of public funds and eight counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.
Bouza never disclosed to city officials that Barkett owed him $1.5 million, according to the Pasadena Star News.
Philips’ attorney insists that his client should not have been charged, according to the Pasadena Star News.
Hill, who is also a private contractor and is a former member of the state Assembly and Senate as a Republican representing Whittier, was also retained by the city, despite his 1994 conviction for “using his elected office to extort $2,500 from an undercover FBI agent who was part of a Capitol sting operation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
He was charged with two counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity.
He had a stake in SGVWP, according to the Pasadena Star News.
“Public corruption erodes the trust of our citizenry and hampers progress,” Gascón said in a statement. “There is no place for it in Los Angeles County.”
Barkett was arrested Wednesday and is being held on $1 million bail, according to the Pasadena Star News, which added that an attorney for Philips said his client is scheduled to surrender to authorities on Sept. 7.
Bouza was also arrested Wednesday and was released on $45,000 bail.
Hill did not appear in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department database.
Philips’ first court appearance was Friday, though his arraignment was postponed to Sept. 10.
The other three defendants are expected to be arraigned on Sept. 7.
The case remains under investigation by the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.