Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Big Day in SF Politics: Newsom in Office. Jew in Trouble

Yesterday was quite a day for San Francisco politics. Gavin Newsom was re-elected as mayor and former Supervisor Ed Jew was hit with five more felony charges. One man’s political career is extended, while another’s is almost certain to end in disastrous fashion. Sometimes life is so ironic that it’s well…ironic!
Everyone expected that Newsom would win – pretty much because he ran unopposed. But, the news about Ed Jew is somewhat shocking. The allegations against him are extensive and far-reaching. The fact that this man was able to do what he did is astonishing. How on earth did he ever think that he could get away with it? Extortion? Bribery? Fraud? This is serious old-school corruption -- mafia-type stuff.
And to think it all started with stores that sell those bubble/tapioca drinks. I’ve been to the Quickly location in question and I love their smoothies and teas. Little did I know that the chain would be a launching pad for corruption and payoffs. There must be a ton of money in those drinks.
This article appeared this morning on sfchronicle.com:
A federal grand jury added new felony charges Tuesday to the legal burdens of suspended San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew, issuing a five-count indictment that accuses him of trying to shake down Sunset District businesses for $84,000 in bribes.
The federal charges - two counts each of bribery and mail fraud and one count of extortion - are the most serious yet leveled at the first-term lawmaker, who also faces civil and criminal accusations from local authorities for allegedly lying about his residence.
The indictment replaces a single count of mail fraud issued by federal prosecutors on Sept. 21. The central allegation of both sets of charges is the same: that Jew solicited $80,000 in bribes from the Quickly chain of tapioca drink shops, telling the operators that they were in violation of a city permit ordinance and would have to pay him to help with the process.
He accepted $40,000 in cash from representatives of the chain in May as partial payment, the indictment said.
"Jew would and did tout his own official power as a San Francisco supervisor to persuade business owners to enter into a paying arrangement with him and/or his recommended 'consultant,' " the grand jury said.
He was also accused of accepting $4,000 in cash from the owner of Wonderful Desserts and Cafe in April in exchange for his support of a new permit for the cafe. The payment was made three days after the City Planning Commission approved the permit, the indictment said.
"When public servants betray the people's trust for the sake of personal gain, they deeply wound the democratic principles upon which this society is founded," Charlene Thornton, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco office, said in a news release announcing the indictment.
Jew's lawyer, Steven Gruel, said the supervisor denies all the allegations and will plead not guilty at an arraignment today.
"An indictment is not evidence of anything. It's nothing more than one side of the story, the side that the government has presented to the grand jury," Gruel said. "I'm anxious to finally get this case in front of a jury."
San Francisco prosecutors also have filed criminal charges against Jew in Superior Court, accusing him of nine counts of perjury and fraud for claiming a Sunset District home as his residence for voting and running for office.
In separate proceedings related to his residency, Jew was suspended from office in September by Mayor Gavin Newsom, triggering an investigation by the city's Ethics Commission into whether he should be removed from office. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a civil suit seeking to oust Jew. A conviction on any of the felony charges also would be grounds to remove him.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, a former deputy public defender, offered a resolution asking his colleagues to "adopt procedures which guarantee a fair proceeding" in the residency case. He said supervisors should refrain from making public comments about the case if the Ethics Commission agrees with Newsom that Jew committed misconduct, a finding that would leave Jew's status in the hands of the supervisors.
Gruel, who has complained about the simultaneous multiple proceedings against Jew, said Tuesday he would prefer to see the federal criminal case tried first.
Jew, the 47-year-old owner of a Chinatown flower shop, was elected to the Board of Supervisors from District 4 in the Sunset last November. Representing one of San Francisco's more conservative areas, he became a frequent dissenter in board votes and gained the nickname "Supervisor No" among City Hall staff. A former vice chairman of the County Republican Central Committee, he now is a registered Democrat.
The charges in the indictment, each punishable by federal prison sentences, are:
-- Soliciting $80,000 in bribes from the Quickly chain and accepting $40,000 in cash.
-- Soliciting and accepting $4,000 in bribes from the owner of Wonderful Cafe, who was not charged.
-- Using the U.S. mail to send documents related to both bribery schemes.
-- Extorting money from the Quickly chain "by wrongful use of fear and under color of official right."
The case surfaced publicly in May when FBI agents looking for evidence of bribery searched Jew's flower shop, his City Hall office, his declared San Francisco residence on 28th Avenue, and another home on Roosevelt Avenue in Burlingame.
Neighbors of the 28th Avenue house, where Jew was registered as a voter and a candidate, said the property had been vacant for years. City investigators who examined utility bills, insurance and bank loan applications and other records concluded that Jew lived in Burlingame with his wife and daughter and that his claim of San Francisco residency was a fabrication, an allegation he has denied.
In response to the federal search, Jew told The Chronicle at the time that agents were investigating $40,000 in cash he had accepted from the tapioca drink shop operators in the Sunset who had approached him for help with city permit problems. Jew said he accepted the money only because he believed it was to pay a legitimate fee to a consultant to whom he had referred the businessmen for help.
He identified the consultant as Robert Chan, a former City Hall legislative aide. In Tuesday's indictment, the grand jury said Jew told business owners their payments were intended for a consultant, who was not identified in the court documents.
The indictment said Jew extorted money from the Quickly tapioca drink chain by first telling an unnamed top city planning official in March about the chain's possible permit problems. After the planning official told him that the chain's stores appeared to be violating a permit ordinance, Jew told the store operators he would help them stay in business in exchange for cash payments of $10,000 for each of the eight businesses, the indictment said.
All Planning Commission decisions in the Sunset District "have to pass through me. This is my district," the grand jury quoted Jew as telling the store operators.
Jew accepted $40,000 of the money on May 7, the indictment said. An FBI investigator, in court papers, said the FBI had supplied the money. The investigator said Jew told agents at the time of the searches that he had accepted the $40,000 for someone else but acknowledged keeping $20,000 of it. The FBI search turned up $10,000 of that money at the Burlingame home, agents said.

1 comment:

Ed Jew said...

I am not a clook!