Public corruption La Jolla Barkett
Tres Hermanos Ranch, the site of a proposed solar project at the heart of the public corruption case involving a La Jolla developer. Photo credit: Change.org

A former state legislator and a La Jolla-based developer made their first court appearances this week in connection with a case stemming from the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of millions of dollars.

The money had been set to be used to study whether a solar farm was suitable on land to be bought by the City of Industry.

The developer, William Barkett, 63, and former state Sen. Frank Hill, R-Whittier, 67, did not enter pleas. They are due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Oct. 27 for arraignment.

Barkett is charged with one count each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft.

He was expected to be released on $1 million bond after a Los Angeles judge found Tuesday that the source of the bail money was not from the alleged crimes. He was arrested Sept. 1 in San Diego County.

Barkett’s attorney, Bill Seki, said outside the courtroom that his client is a lifelong California resident who has a medical condition. He knew he had been under investigation.

“Most importantly he wants to fight to prove his innocence here,” the defense lawyer said.

Barkett and Hill are charged along with former Industry city manager Paul Jule Philips, 70, and attorney Anthony Bouza, 60.

Philips will be arraigned Friday, while Bouza’s arraignment is pending.

Philips, who made his first appearance last Friday on one count of misappropriation of public funds, was released after being booked Sunday, jail records show.

Hill is charged with two counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity and is free on bond.

Bouza is charged with one count of misappropriation of public funds and eight counts of having a financial interest in a contract or purchase made in an official capacity. He was released from custody on bond about four hours after his Sept. 1 arrest, according to jail records.

The charges were filed Aug. 24.

The City of Industry entered into a land lease agreement between 2016 and 2018 with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC – owned by Barkett – to examine the solar farm venture.

Phillips and Bouza, an attorney hired by the city and a private contractor who allegedly helped draft the agreement, handled the funds, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Roughly $20 million in public funds was allegedly routed to an account controlled by Barkett during that time.

Prosecutors allege that some of the money was paid to other vendors and about $8.3 million was allegedly spent by Barkett on personal items.

Bouza and Hill are accused of having a financial conflict of interest when they allegedly drafted or influenced contracts with the city, according to the District Attorney’s Office, which noted that the case remains under investigation.

Hill served a 46-month prison sentence for his 1994 conviction on federal extortion and money laundering charges. They stemmed from a $2,500 payment he took from federal undercover agents in an FBI sting.

– City News Service

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