February 20, 2021 - SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Friday announced the sentencing of Alex Morales III, a former California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employee who received payment in exchange for awarding contracts for projects that required some form of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Morales pleaded guilty in December to two counts of felony bribery and was sentenced today to four years in prison, which is suspended pending successful completion of a two-year probation term. The terms of probation include one year of home detention with electronic monitoring and monthly $500 restitution payments to Caltrans. Morales will also forfeit any CalPERS benefits he accrued between August 2010 and January 2015, when the crimes were committed.
“When you violate the public’s trust, you will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As public servants, we are held to a higher standard. There is no place for this kind of criminal behavior in our state or state government. At the California Department of Justice, we’re always ready to go to bat for the people of California.”
Morales was employed as an ADA coordinator for Caltrans, a role which involves making Caltrans systems, including bridges and public walkways, ADA compliant. The California Department of Justice arrested Morales in 2015 after a nine-month investigation. Following a preliminary hearing in 2017, a judge held Morales to answer on 39 counts of bribery. At trial in 2019, the jury acquitted Morales on two counts and deadlocked on the remaining counts. A new trial was scheduled for 2021, but Morales pleaded guilty in December 2020 to accepting multiple bribes over the course of approximately five years. The bribes were made in cash payments ranging from $1,875 to $12,000 and included the acceptance of a new white Ford Expedition.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting California’s laws and combatting criminal activity across the state. This month, the Attorney General announced the sentencing of Donnelly Montenegro, former acting Chief Operating Officer of the AIDS Research Alliance (ARA) for grand theft for falsely portraying himself as an acting ARA staff member in order to steal $316,000 from a donor’s estate. Attorney General Becerra also announced the arraignment of Tamur Rajput for alleged money laundering and filing false tax returns in connection with a tobacco smuggling scheme. In November 2020, the Attorney General announced the arrest and arraignment of nine individuals on 136 felony counts for allegedly operating an advance fee mortgage relief scam that claimed to prevent the foreclosure of properties throughout Southern California. Last August, Attorney General Becerra announced the arraignment and charges against Eric Nguyen and Khan “Tina” Tran, who were charged in connection with an alleged gambling scheme that resulted in the theft of approximately $4 million from the 580 Casino in Livermore. In July 2020, the Attorney General announced arrests and filing of charges against Christopher Mancuso, John Black, and Joseph Tufo for allegedly operating a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme that targeted more than 70 victims around the world.