If you ask the promoters who once organized wildly popular raves at the L.A. Coliseum and adjacent Sports Arena, the corruption scandal that erupted in 2011 was all smoke and no fire. But according to critics of the raves at those taxpayer-owned venues, the scandal compromised public trust in an institution that has operated in the city since 1923.
The case saw big-name concert organizers pleading no contest to conflict-of-interest charges, for paying the venues' then–events manager nearly $1.8 million for "consulting." And the investigation changed the rave landscape in L.A.
On Thursday, a Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokesman announced that the case is finally nearing its completion; a former technology manager, who is pleading no contest to a conflict-of-interest charge, is the last defendant in the five-year Coliseum corruption case. Leopold Caudillo, 46, is scheduled to be sentenced in 2018. Prosecutors alleged that Caudillo, like the former events manager, directed venue business to his own firm. As part of a plea deal, he's expected to perform at least 100 hours of community service and pay $2,750 in restitution, according to a statement from the DA.
Prosecutors' bribery and public-corruption case against the promoters, Pasquale Rotella of Insomniac Events and Reza Gerami of Go Ventures, ended with Rotella getting three years of probation and a $150,000 restitution bill and Gerami getting three years of probation and a $30,000 fine. In August, both pleaded no contest to misdemeanor conflict of interest.
Former Coliseum general manager Patrick Lynch was sentenced in January to three years of probation. He also paid $385,000 restitution and performed 1,500 hours of community service. Events manager Todd DeStefano, who allegedly took those payments from the promoters, was sentenced in September to six months behind bars and three months of probation. His restitution payment was set at $500,000.
The scandal erupted amid calls for raves, which drew upwards of 160,000 people, to be ejected from the venues following the death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez in 2010. She had sneaked into Rotella's Electric Daisy Carnival in June and ended up suffering a fatal reaction to the ecstasy the coroner's office found in her system.
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In June 2010, Tony Estrada, a janitorial contractor in a workers' compensation dispute with the Coliseum, apparently expressed his grievance by becoming a whistleblower about the financial relationship between DeStefano and the promoters. The Los Angeles Times caught wind of it, and the saga became front-page news.
Promoters were fighting for their survival at the venues following Rodriguez's death, and for a time it looked like the Coliseum Commission, a body of political appointees and rotating elected officials, would let them keep their events there. But when the scandal broke in early 2011, raves were all but done at the venues.
After the scandal snowballed and Lynch resigned, then–Coliseum commissioner David Israel said, "I believe we can put on electronic dance festivals safely," but he added: "I don't think this is an appropriate time to do one."
Rotella moved his 100,000-strong Electric Daisy Carnival June rave to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where it has since seen attendance explode. Gerami has hosted events in the L.A. area since the demise of his events at the now-defunct Sports Arena, but none as large as his parties there.