A carwash, auto detailers and several other small businesses allegedly were forced to pay special fees or guarantee thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue to the city of Bell, Calif., according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
Carwash owner Gerardo Quiroz told the Times he paid special fees of $300 per month totaling $10,000 before ultimately closing the business out of frustration. He said even wrote “bribe” in Spanish on his checks because he was outraged.
Quiroz owns carwashes in two other cities in Los Angeles County that he said do not require such fees.
Los Angeles County officials are investigating allegations that Bell city officials arbitrarily required some businesses to pay thousands of dollars in special fees.
An investigative report by the Times revealed at least 20 businesses were subjected to fees, including the carwash. The newspaper said the city appeared to target mostly “mom-and-pop” businesses. A Times review of documents and interviews showed the city collected at least $245,000 in fees, with that number expected to grow.
The fee allegations are the latest controversy for Bell. Eight current and former city officials already have been charged this year with public corruption.