Key lawyer in DWP corruption scandal gets 33-month prison sentence

Los Angeles, CA - November 07: Paul Paradis, right, in green tie, a key government cooperator in the legal scandal involving the Department of Water and Power and the City Attorney's Office, arrives with his lawyer to be sentenced, at U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Paul Paradis, right, arrives at court on Tuesday with his attorney Jeffrey Steinfeld. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a key figure in the sprawling corruption scandal at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the city attorney's office to nearly three years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. ordered Paul Paradis, a former attorney turned cooperating witness for the federal government, to serve 33 months — almost double the 18-month sentence recommended by prosecutors.

Paradis’ attorneys sought to have their client avoid prison and pointed to the numerous undercover operations undertaken by Paradis for the government that helped lead to guilty pleas in the corruption case.

Paradis, at Tuesday’s sentencing, also made new allegations against former City Atty. Mike Feuer, based on statements from an FBI agent assigned to the case.

The judge’s sentence marks the final chapter in the federal criminal investigation that has engulfed City Hall since FBI agents raided multiple government offices in the summer of 2019.

Read more: Questions, anger after feds signal an end to DWP billing probe

Paradis was one player in the scandal, which focused on a sham lawsuit over inflated DWP bills. City officials took part in an audacious plan for the city to sue itself in order to quickly settle the slew of claims filed by DWP customers.

Paradis admitted to taking a nearly $2.2-million kickback from another attorney working on the DWP case. He also took part in other bribery schemes, prosecutors said.

Blumenfeld, in imposing sentence, cited Paradis' long legal career. He said that Paradis, an aggressive plaintiff's attorney from New York, had a "keen" intellect and was "blessed with charm and charisma."

But ultimately, Paradis went down a path of corruption. "Mr. Paradis was at the center" of a "greedy and corrupt" scheme, Blumenfeld said.

Paradis, in his remarks to the judge, expressed remorse. He wept as Blumenfeld talked about Paradis' difficult childhood.

Paradis also used his last moments in court to accuse Feuer of lying to the grand jury, to investigators and in a civil deposition, based on statements made by an FBI agent in an affidavit for a search warrant.

FBI Agent Andrew Civetti testified in an affidavit that Feuer "perjured himself" and "testified falsely," Paradis told Blumenfeld.

The affidavit appears to be part of a massive, confidential trove of government documents, including 33 search warrants, that prosecutors provided to Paradis' legal team ahead of his sentencing. Blumenfeld also had access to the information.

Blumenfeld interrupted Paradis after he cited Civetti's comments. He suggested he was familiar with the comments.

Separately, Paradis has also filed various documents, including State Bar and ethics complaints, accusing other attorneys, including Feuer, of lying.

Feuer, who is running for a seat in Congress, has long denied wrongdoing in the case.

"As you are aware, the U.S. attorney issued a letter more than a year ago stating I was not under any ongoing investigation," Feuer said Tuesday in response to Paradis' remarks in court. "That letter speaks for itself."

Talking to reporters after the sentencing, Paradis said he was "devastated" by the sentence.

The one-time attorney ingratiated himself at City Hall, befriending top city officials and securing numerous government contracts.

Later, he secretly recorded some of those same high-ranking officials and was present when armed agents raided the home of DWP general manager David Wright, who is serving a six-year sentence after conspiring to give Paradis a lucrative contract.

Paradis also continues to help State Bar investigators in their probe of attorneys in the DWP case.

Despite admissions in court documents by prosecutors that the city's legal scheme was known by other top personnel in the city attorney's office, the U.S. attorney's office ultimately charged only two attorneys with crimes.

Prosecutors have declined to explain their charging decisions, but a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office said earlier this year that, generally speaking, the office doesn't pursue charges when "every element of a federal offense" isn't established.

The DWP estimates that the scandal has cost the city more than $120 million.

At Tuesday's sentencing, Blumenfeld appeared to reference the lack of charges against others who were involved, suggesting that some people haven't been held accountable.

Prosecutors in their own court documents filed ahead of Paradis' sentencing credited his extensive undercover work, but also said the "breadth of defendant’s cooperation with the criminal and State Bar investigations cannot be divorced from the breathtaking and staggering scope of defendant’s criminal conduct."

Paradis is scheduled to begin serving his sentence in early January.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.