Drugs, Cash and Parties: The Lifestyles of Mayor Pulido’s Friends

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido (left with white shirt) and Diego Olivares, a convicted cocaine trafficker. The images are from Olivares' Facebook page.

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Locals call them the Mexican seafood version of “Hooters” – but with a narco twist.

They are the Mariscos Hector restaurants — where busty young women wearing tight-fitting shirts serve a heavily working-class Latino clientele while Mexican ballads, known as narcocorridos, blast out in the dining rooms and heap praise on infamous drug lords like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

The purported proprietor of the new Hector’s on Broadway in Santa Ana is one Diego Olivares — a man who seems to have lived the life Mariscos Hector’s glorifies. In the late 1990s he was convicted of orchestrating a cocaine trafficking operation to move 81 lbs. of cocaine across the border from Mexico, according to federal court records, an amount worth upwards of millions of dollars on the street.

Records also show Olivares being busted on methamphetamine charges in 2007, and the records refer to him possibly engaging in “alien smuggling” and kidnapping his girlfriend. He was a confidential informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration during this time and may have remained an informant as recently as 2009, according to the records.

While the court records indicate Olivares has stayed clear of the law in recent years, a tour through his and his friends’ social media profiles reveals a man still immersed in the narco subculture. In photo after photo Olivares and his buddies are partying and flashing wads of $100 bills. One photo shows a gold-plated gun, and another an outdoor marijuana grow operation.

And amidst all the photos of guns, drugs and cash, is a familiar face: Mayor Miguel Pulido.

Diego Olivares (left), Miguel Pulido (center) and former Santa Ana City Council candidate Miguel "Mike" Gonzalez (right) in a picture posted on Olivares' Facebook page.

Diego Olivares (left), Miguel Pulido (center) and former Santa Ana City Council candidate Miguel “Mike” Gonzalez (right) in a picture posted on Olivares’ Facebook page.

A picture of a gold-plated gun posted on the Facebook page belonging to a friend of Diego Olivares.

A picture of a gold-plated gun posted on the Facebook page belonging to a friend of Diego Olivares.

A picture of a marijuana grow operation on the Mariscos Hector Instagram page. "Mis plantitas," Spanish for "my little plants," was written as the description.

A picture of a marijuana grow operation on the Mariscos Hector Instagram page. “Mis plantitas,” Spanish for “my little plants,” was written as the description.

Pulido has appeared in video promoting the restaurants.

He’s also seen in photos a number of times with Olivares and his friends — attending parties at a ritzy mansion, having dinner together and at the planning counter at City Hall. Olivares sat at the mayor’s table during Pulido’s state of the city address last year, and Pulido’s own Facebook page had at one time as its background photo a group shot that included Olivares.

Mayor Miguel Pulido poses in a group photo with attendees of his 2015 State of the City Address. From left: Diego Olivares, Pulido, Mike Harrah, Thomas Lin, and two other men.

Mayor Miguel Pulido poses in a group photo with attendees of his 2015 State of the City Address. From left: Diego Olivares, Pulido, Mike Harrah, Thomas Lin, and two other men.

Also in that photo and others with Pulido is Thomas Lin, a middle-aged Monterey Park-based doctor who is now sitting in a Los Angeles County jail for Medi-Cal fraud and illegally prescribing diet pills. Olivares and his friends call Lin “El Chino Antrax,” a reference to a Mexican drug lord with the same nickname.

Olivares-and-Lin-party-e1466442251481 2

Lin's booking photo after his arrest on Medi-Cal fraud charges.

Monterey Park Police Department

Lin’s booking photo after his arrest on Medi-Cal fraud charges. (Photo by Monterey Park Police Department)

Another indication that Pulido is close to the restaurant came up earlier this month when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was scheduled to appear at Hector’s on Broadway, according to a source close to the Santa Ana Police Department. Pulido is known to have high-level Democratic party connections.

For reasons unknown, Clinton instead appeared at another restaurant down the street. Olivares was able to attend the exclusive event with “community leaders” and snap a selfie with the former Secretary of State that he posted on his Facebook page.

Source: Diego Olivares' Facebook page.

Source: Diego Olivares’ Facebook page.

Olivares and his crew haven’t been shy about promoting their association with Pulido.

“Mariscos Hector making power moves with the mayor of Santa Ana,” the Mariscos Hector Instagram page posted along with a photo of Olivares and Pulido dining together at the posh Anaheim White House Restaurant.

When confronted by reporters, Olivares denied being the man named in the federal case files and refused to comment for this article. Following Olivares’ denial, Voice of OC took a number of steps to confirm that he is the same Diego Olivares convicted of cocaine trafficking and named as a DEA informant.

Olivares lists his birthday as Jan. 26 on his Facebook page, which is the same birthday listed for Olivares in the federal case file. A traffic ticket issued in 2012 to a Diego Olivares with the same address as the person in the federal case file lists the vehicle he was driving as registered to Paulin Olivares — the same name of an individual Diego Olivares identifies on Facebook as his father.

Finally, the address given for Olivares in the case files matched an address listed in the county’s Registrar of Voters database for people with the same names as those Olivares identified on Facebook as family members. A man Diego Olivares identifies on Facebook as his brother, Oscar Olivares, is listed in the registrar with the same address and birthday as the Oscar Olivares on Facebook.

Potential Political Reform Act Violation

Pulido did not respond to a call requesting comment regarding his relationship with Olivares. And nothing in his financial disclosures shows a business relationship with Olivares or the restaurant chain.

But there is some connection because at the May 3 Santa Ana City Council meeting Pulido abstained from voting on a pair of alcohol sales and late night operating permits for Hector’s on Broadway.

“I may have received a contribution,” Pulido said at the meeting, adding that, “out of an abundance of caution,” he wasn’t going to vote on the permits.

If Pulido did receive a contribution, he hasn’t reported it yet. His campaign filings dating from January 2012 to December 2015 show no contributions from the Mariscos Hector restaurants or the people who own and run them. His report for the first half of this year is not due until July 31.

Depending on what his upcoming report shows, Pulido’s vague explanation for his recusal could constitute a violation of the state’s Poltical Reform Act.

The act requires council members to recuse themselves from votes involving businesses or people with financial ties to the elected official. And in addition to the recusal, the council member must adequately explain the circumstances of the conflict.

Pulido’s statements from the council dais don’t square with another explanation given to a reporter by a source close to Pulido. That source said Pulido abstained from the vote on the permits because Olivares had asked Pulido for help with the permitting process – which Pulido provided — and the mayor felt he was too close to the issue, the source said.

Pulido doesn’t keep very good track of his campaign contributions, and Voice of OC’s past coverage has the mayor “spooked” into avoiding participating in any decision that might be a conflict, the source said.

The source also acknowledged that Olivares has had drug-related offenses in the past, but that the restaurateur has put that behind him and is now a “stand up citizen.”

The possibility that Pulido gave a false reason for recusing himself from the vote on Mariscos Hector’s liquor license is unfamiliar territory for Bob Stern, co-author of the 1974 Political Reform Act.

“I haven’t heard of that one before,” Stern said when told about the situation. “If [Pulido’s explanation] is totally wrong, I assume there’s some problem.”

It’s possible that Pulido had no legal reason to recuse himself from the vote, Stern said. His publicly filed statements of economic interests show no connections to the Mariscos Hector restaurants.

The only campaign contribution connected to Mariscos Hector in the 2014 Santa Ana mayoral race was a $3,000 donation made by Maria Sebold to the Taxpayers for Ethical Government Political Action Committee, which spent $9,783 on mailers opposing Councilman Roman Reyna, who was Pulido’s then challenger for the mayor’s seat.

On alcohol sales licenses issued by the state to Mariscos Hector restaurants, Sebold is listed as president. She didn’t return a phone call seeking comment, but a woman who answered the phone identified Sebold and Olivares as the owners of the restaurants.

A contribution to an independent expenditure committee wouldn’t disqualify the mayor from voting under the city’s campaign finance law.

Pulido has shown a pattern of withholding information from campaign finance and financial disclosure forms, a habit that has given him trouble on multiple occasions over his 21 years as mayor.

In just one example, Pulido is the target of an ongoing state Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into whether the mayor illegally omitted thousands of dollars in campaign debt from his disclosure forms as if it never existed.

And most recently, Shirley Grindle, the mayor’s one-time treasurer and Orange County’s campaign finance watchdog, found more than a dozen omissions from the statement of economic interests Pulido filed in April. Among the missing information were the terms of personal loans to the mayor, his positions with companies listed as sources of income and their business activities.

“It’s just sloppy,” Grindle said.

Longtime City Hall watcher Thomas Anthony Gordon was shocked when shown the images and at first asked whether Pulido was directly involved in any illegal activity. After collecting his thoughts, Gordon said it was more evidence of the kind of culture Pulido has created at City Hall — one involving “hanging out with suspicious characters and raising money from dubious sources.”

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information since first published. Also, names attached to photographs taken from Facebook pages have been blurred to protect the privacy of Facebook users.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

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  • Elhorizonte

    This hit piece fails to generate any actual conflict involving Pulido. It raises the issue of Pulido appearing in a few photos and attempts to persuade the reader into assuming guilt by association but fails terribly at doing so. To begin with, Mariscos Hector is a successful restaurant that attracts many patrons. If Pulido is seen at that establishment at all it would merely be an indication that he is aware that a certain base of potential voters are attracted to the establishment and just like any other Mayor, he is interacting with his constituents. The article fails to state that within the same video clip where he is seen with Olivares, he is also beside Roberto Tapia, a leading regional mexican singer who was a guest judge on the Spanish-language version of American Idol. So yes…. very alarming!!! Pulido standing beside a famous singer.

    The article than points to the purported relationship between Pulido and Olivares. If Olivares was in fact a previously convicted drug offender than the article attempts to taint Pulido’s reputation by interacting with Olivares. This is the same tactic the Republicans used when they attempted to smear Obama for being on the same board with Bill Ayers of the radical left group Weather Underground while he was in Chicago many years after being tried in court. The article then raises the possibility of Olivares being a DEA informant. If at one point he was a convicted drug offender-turned informant, then wouldn’t his actions be counter intuitive to drug dealing? If anything, he would be taking on tremendous personal risk to be a drug informant for law enforcement and should be applauded for his efforts as opposed to the insinuations suggested by this article. The article then suggests that the photos of the weed plants or the gold plated guns all suggest illicit activity that includes Pulido. How is this any different than rappers posing with stacks of cash, driving in nice vehicles, and rolling large marijuana blunts. Social media attempts to draw likes and fans by projecting a certain image. The conclusion of this article is that if you are Mexican and hang out at a certain establishment and post certain things on social media then you are criminal. How is this not racial profiling and an attempt to link Pulido to nefarious drug cartel activity. The evidence, up until now suggests, otherwise. The one clear example where any attempt was made to actually tie Pulido to a criminal act was when Pulido recused himself. If he received a donation from a co-owner of Mariscos Hector then he might be correct to recuse himself from the vote out of an abundance of caution. So sorry not sorry, Voice of OC, but so far your rag-tag attempt at amateur journalism fails to yield any concrete criminal offense. Had you otherwise done so, the district attorney would have been involved and then, and only then, your article would have yielded substance worth reporting on.

    • Rivett

      The shill squad is out in force today.

      • Elhorizonte

        Actually you’re part of the shill squad. Without raising an an actual objection to my response you make yourself look stupid.

    • RITCHIE VALENS

      Eres parte de esa misma inche bola de ojetes. Hector Marisco es una Mierda. Tu nomas le estas mamando los….a los dos. Who cares about this clown, he’s a rat. Let him be, el que anda en malos pasos ya sabes. You totally sound like you are writing on their behalf. Ya te descubristes TUHORIZONTE OJETE

  • SAnative

    Is anyone questioning any of the business of the white gentrifiers that have swept up downtown SA and displaced the many Latin@-owned businesses? Or can the white man do no wrong/harm? (Other than colonize and kill) This is worse than the vomit that exits Trump’s mouth!

    • Rivett

      Oh poor you and your identity politics. Pulido is a corrupt crook, Janet Nguyen is corrupt, Tony Rackauckas is corrupt, Dave Garofalo was/is corrupt, and about a thousand others of every shade or tint. Now shut it.

      • Elhorizonte

        Wow, how articulate? Is that your evidence, just typing in “_______________” is corrupt. How about you support your arguments or is that beyond comprehension? This is not identity politics, its called “reason.” Sorry you don’t seem to respect the constitution or any of the content contained within it.

  • Philmore

    So, how much did Olivares contribute to the Clinton Foundation ?

    • Elhorizonte

      Huh? This was never even mentioned in the article.

      • Philmore

        My deep apologies to your caretaker(s) for causing them the unpleasant task of collecting the fragments of your exploded brain and completely cleaning the room, when an article comment containing more than one frame of reference escapes their otherwise diligent censorship.

  • chubbers

    Turning a blind eye to excesses, and yes by patronizing the restaurants you are indirectly involved, people know from workers, chisme, what is the underlying business and it is not food, it is control and power.

    • Elhorizonte

      What workers are you referring to? Sorry, chisme does not meet the ethical standards of journalism. What does control and power have to do with anything beyond being interesting slogans in your vacuous comment.

  • Jose Joe Moreno

    Might as well implicate Hillary Clinton in this sensational headline too. Wasn’t Hillary “partying” with the proprietor of Hectors too?

    Shame on Hillary’s secret service people for not doing background checks and polygraphing everybody who attends one of her events, gives her a campaign contribution or takes a selfie with her

    Obviously, the Mayor of Santa Ana should have known because he has more resources at his disposable than the next President of the United States. D-OH!

    In fact, every person who “liked” Hector’s Facebook posts or parties with one of its owners is guilty of association; all the residents of Santa Ana who patronage the restaurant, the city council-members, college board members, the local Democratic Party officials, and latino business groups are guilty, everybody who listens to the Narco music(because if you listen to it you support it) the medicinal marijuana community, and anybody who flashes cash money, wears a Rolex and drives a expensive car are all bad people.

    This story is far reaching, imposes a different standard on latinos, and is against felons from getting a second chance,

    Lame!

    • chubbers

      It is acceptance of this Cartel lovestyle

      • Jose Joe Moreno

        Like watching the God father series and good Fellas makes one in acceptance of the mafia lifestyle.

        Really!

      • Elhorizonte

        How is this acceptance of a “cartel” lifestyle? The article fails to raise any connection with any cartel, there is no proof or cartel related activity. A cartel is not an ambiguous loaded term in the way you use it, it actually is an organized group from a specific region with a specific shared goal. Taking a photo with someone is not an endorsement.

  • Jen Woelm

    Has the same familiar tone as the Garden Grove City Hall employees and their antics!

  • Paul Lucas

    This is the stuff of a Hollywood Movie.