These Five California Cities Have Been Named America’s Most Corrupt City in the State


California is known for its beautiful weather, rich culture, and strong economy. But it also has a bad side: greed. Corruption is when someone uses public power for personal gain. It can show up in many ways, like bribery, fraud, theft, favoritism, and blackmail. This hurts people’s trust in the government, wastes public money, goes against the law, and lowers the quality of life for everyone.

A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago says that California has the second-highest number of cases of public corruption in the country, after Illinois. Between 1976 and 2017, 3,265 federal corruption charges were made in California, which is an average of 6.5 per 100,000 people.

Notably, the amount of corruption varies from city to city, with some becoming famous for their bad politics. If you look at how many and how bad the corruption cases are, as well as how they affect the public and get media attention, these are the five most corrupt towns in California.

1. Anaheim

The “happiest place on Earth,” Disneyland, is in Anaheim, but the city has a dark political side as well. An FBI investigation in 2020 revealed a secret group made up of former Mayor Harry Sidhu, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, and San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC. The investigation showed that Sidhu and his friends took $20 million in COVID-19 recovery funds and gave them to a company for a solar power project that didn’t exist.

They also spent some of the money on themselves. These claims were supported by a separate probe, which called them a “potential criminal conspiracy.” The public no longer trusts the city because of this incident.

2. Vernon

Vernon is a small city in Los Angeles County that is known as “the most corrupt five square miles in California.” Vernon was ruled by a small group of powerful families and leaders, and its history of crime includes cases like

  • Leonis Malburg, who used to be mayor, was found guilty of voting theft, conspiracy, and lying under oath in 2006.
  • Bruce Malkenhorst, who used to be the city controller, was found guilty of stealing public money in 2011 to pay himself $911,000 a year.
  • In 2013, Eric Fresch, who used to be the city controller, was accused of billing the city $1.65 million in consulting fees before he died.

3. Bell

Another small city in Los Angeles County is Bell. In 2010, there was a big scandal when city leaders paid themselves huge incomes and bonuses while raising taxes on low-income residents. Some important findings were:

  • Robert Rizzo, who used to be city manager, made $787,000 a year plus perks.
  • The pay of Angela Spaccia, who used to be assistant city manager, was $376,000, plus perks and a loan of $26,000 with no interest.
  • Randy Adams, who used to be police chief, made more money than the Los Angeles police chief.
  • All eight officials were charged, and they were all found guilty and sent to jail.

4. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the most crooked city in California. From 1976 to 2017, 1,534 people were found guilty of public corruption there. The city council, the mayor’s office, the police department, the county board of supervisors, and the district attorney’s office have all been involved in several scams. Some recent cases are:

  • In 2020, Jose Huizar, a former councilman, was charged with running a crime group that took bribes from developers.
  • In 2020, Mitchell Englander, a former councilman, admitted he had blocked a federal probe into taking gifts.
  • Raymond Chan, who used to be deputy mayor, was charged with taking part in a bribery plan in 2019.

5. San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most crooked towns in California. It is famous for its technology and culture. The California State Auditor put it third on a list of high-risk problems in a report from 2020. Some recent cases involve:

  • Mohammed Nuru, who used to be the head of public works, was charged with theft, bribery, and lying to the FBI in 2020.
  • In 2020, Barbara Garcia, who used to be the head of public health, was accused of giving a $1.8 million contract to her ex-lover.
  • In 2019, former mayor Ed Lee was linked to a federal investigation into bribery.


In conclusion, California has a lot of good things about it, but it also has a big problem with corruption. It ranks second in the country for federal corruption charges. Some towns, like Anaheim, Vernon, Bell, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, are known for high-profile cases of crime that hurt the public’s trust and quality of life. These towns have had a lot of problems with theft, bribes, and bad use of public funds. This shows that California’s government needs to be changed as a whole to stop and deal with corruption.

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