Former Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians sentenced for bribery and tax evasion

LOS ANGELES – The former chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians was sentenced today to 41 months behind bars for taking $875,000 in bribes from tribal vendors and concealing it from the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors said.

Robert Salgado Sr., 68, who lives on the Soboba Reservation near San Jacinto, pleaded guiltyto charges of bribery and subscribing to a false tax return as his trial was getting under way in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles last October.

In addition to the prison term, which Salgado must begin serving by June 20, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson ordered the defendant to pay $226,187 in back taxes to the IRS, federal prosecutors said.

Salgado admitted that he accepted a total of $874,995 in bribe payments from five vendors who did business with the Soboba Band.

The payments to Salgado, which were made by vendors hoping to obtain or keep contracts with the tribe, were given to him in the form of cash, payments made to his creditors and checks payable to an entity controlled by Salgado, according to court papers.

Salgado specifically admitted:

— receiving $486,152 from a vendor involved in the tribe’s $12.5 million purchase of a golf course now called the Country Club at Soboba Springs and other real estate purchases;

— taking about $184,000 in bribes from a second vendor that was awarded food concession and other contracts at the Soboba Casino;

— accepting bribes totaling $89,000 from a vendor that received a series of construction contracts from the Soboba Bank;

— taking $65,843 in bribes, plus ”substantial cash payments which cannot be quantified,” from another vendor that received a series of construction contracts; and

— accepting a total of $50,000 in bribes from Abbas Shilleh, the owner of California Parking Services Inc., which provided valet parking at the Soboba Casino.

In sentencing papers, prosecutors asked for a prison sentence, stressing that Salgado ”did not take one or two bribes. He took hundreds of them over the course of a decade. Defendant ran the tribe as if it belonged to him. Now he must pay the price.”

Salgado also pleaded guilty to a tax offense, admitting that he filed a 2001 tax return that claimed he and his wife earned $146,114, when in reality they earned substantially more.

Salgado admitted he also did not accurately report his income for tax years 2002 through 2006, failing to pay a total of $226,187 in taxes.

Shilleh, 47, of Diamond Bar, pleaded guilty last month, admitting he paid bribes to Salgado. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Pregerson on June 6.

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