Nearly one year after being accusations surfaced, the former chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to federal charges related to his acceptance of approximately $875,000 in bribes from tribal vendors and concealing that income from the Internal Revenue Service.
Robert Salgado Sr., 68, pleaded guilty to two felony charges – bribery and subscribing to a false tax return.
The guilty pleas come after opening statements began in his trial Tuesday morning.
As part of the plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Salgado admited 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 being allowed to keep contracts with the tribe, were given to Salgado in the form of cash or to other interests he had.
In the plea agreement, Salgado specifically admits:
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 approximately $184,000 in bribes from a second vendor who was awarded food concession and other contracts at the Soboba Casino;
accepting bribes totaling $89,000 from a vendor who 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 who 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 provides valet parking at the Soboba Casino.
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, but in reality earned “substantially in excess of that amount.”
In the plea agreement, Salgado admits he “also did not report his income accurately” for tax years 2002 through 2006, and that he owes the IRS a total of $226,187 in back taxes.
Salgado will be sentenced on February 7, 2011. He faced a maximum sentence of 13 years in federal prison.
Shilleh, 47, of Diamond Bar, was indicted along with Salgado last year. Shilleh, who has pleaded not guilty in the case, is scheduled to go on trial before Judge Pregerson on February 1.