A San Fernando Valley businessman who admitted to illegally reimbursing campaign contributors during the 2011 municipal election faces a $45,000 fine from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Juan Carlos Jaramillo, 52, has already agreed to pay the proposed penalty, which stems from his fundraising activities in support of Rudy Martinez, who lost to City Councilman Jose Huizar.
The Ethics Commission must decide Thursday whether to impose the fine or seek a different penalty. Jaramillo has admitted that he reimbursed donors to Martinez, a practice known as campaign money laundering, bypassing the city's contribution limits. In 2011, donors were limited to $500 per council candidate.
Jaramillo, who has an advertising company in Mission Hills, said he did not know that his actions were illegal until it was too late. Asked why he made the reimbursements, Jaramillo said he was "trying to look cool" by showing that he was a "rainmaker" for the Martinez campaign.
"When I learned that I was breaking the law, I testified and took full responsibility for my actions, which I'm very sorry for," he said. "I totally, royally screwed up and … I would advise people to stay away from any political [activities] without knowing what you're doing."
Ethics Commission investigators concluded that in 2010, Jaramillo provided full or partial reimbursement to 18 donors to Martinez. Of that total, 11 were employees of his company, which goes by the name Financial Success, according to the commission report. Jaramillo said his company provides marketing, promotions and other services to the law office of former Councilman Nick Pacheco, who lost to Huizar in 2005.
More than three years ago, a former employee of Pacheco's firm contacted the district attorney about Jaramillo's campaign activities. Carlos Lira, the former employee, said Jaramillo provided him and his wife partial reimbursement for donations they made to Martinez. Lira said he and his wife feared they would lose their jobs in Pacheco's office if they declined to write a check to Martinez.
Prosecutors closed their inquiry into Jaramillo on Jan. 11 without filing charges, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
Martinez returned $6,000 in contributions affiliated with Jaramillo after receiving a letter from the Ethics Commission in 2010 asking about the donations. Martinez, who has appeared on the home-renovation television show "Flip This House," said Monday he had no knowledge at the time that Jaramillo had been reimbursing donors.
Jaramillo said Monday that Martinez had no knowledge of the reimbursements during the campaign.
Under the city's laws, Jaramillo could receive a maximum fine of $90,000. Ethics officials proposed half that amount because Jaramillo is a first-time offender who cooperated with their investigation.
"Jaramillo has saved significant commission staff resources by entering into this stipulated settlement at an early stage in the investigation," the report to the commission states.