Carl Washington
Carl Washington

A former South Bay assemblyman who is on unpaid leave from his job with the Los Angeles County Probation Department pleaded guilty Monday to federal bank fraud charges for bilking financial institutions by falsely claiming to be the victim of identity theft.

Carl Washington, 47, of Paramount admitted masterminding a four-year scheme in which he obtained credit cards and loans from banks and credit unions, racking up thousands of dollars in charges for airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, rental cars and cash advances, according to the plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero set sentencing for June 3. Washington is among nearly 50 employees arrested since January 2012 in a yearlong probe of alleged misconduct among Probation Department staffers.

"Where we have found misconduct, we have taken strong and immediate action," Probation Department Chief Jerry Powers said. "These cases represent a tiny minority of the 6,000 men and women who do work with integrity for this department. But any misconduct impugns the reputation of all. We will not stand for it."

Washington, who admitted operating the scheme from February 2007 to August 2011, is on unpaid leave from his job as the director for intergovernmental relations and legislative affairs, according to Powers.

"I have personally received feedback from many staff stating that they are relieved to see that problem employees are finally being dealt with," Powers said.

The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a motion to fund additional staff for internal Probation Department investigations, he said.

According to court papers, Washington obtained about $193,000 in goods, cash and services, then filed police reports in which he claimed to be the victim of identity theft and reporting that the cards and loans had been opened by someone unknown to him.

He subsequently filed a copy of the bogus police report with Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, in order to have the charges and past due amounts removed from his credit report, according to the indictment. Once Experian removed the charges, Washington applied for new credit cards without disclosing outstanding debts or that he had charges and unpaid balances removed from his credit report, according to prosecutors.

When new credit cards were issued, Washington again ran up debts worth another couple of thousand dollars and filed yet another police report, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.

Washington is a former Baptist preacher who represented a Gardena-to-Paramount Assembly district from 1996 to 2002. After he was termed out of office, he lost a race for a Los Angeles City Council seat to Jan Perry.