Mail fraud charge used to convict two other officials
Embattled Supervisor Ed Jew faces felony mail fraud charges in
connection with an alleged scheme to extort up to $80,000 in cash
from local businessmen who sought Jew's help in resolving permit
problems. In the past year, federal prosecutors have successfully
convicted two former Colma City councilmen on the same charge.
Jew faces up to 2 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines
By Julia Cheever
September 23, 2007
A federal criminal charge leveled against San Francisco Supervisor
Ed Jew -- a mail fraud charge incorporating a public corruption
allegation -- was successfully used by U.S. prosecutors in the
past year to convict two former Colma city councilmen.
The crime, sometimes known as honest services mail fraud, is
defined in federal law as using the U.S. mail to further a scheme
to deprive the public of its right to honest services.
The use of mail provides the federal element needed to make the
offense a U.S. crime even if a defendant in public service is
a local and not a federal official.
Jew, 47, elected last year to represent the city's Sunset District,
was accused of mail fraud in a federal criminal complaint Thursday
for allegedly soliciting $40,000 in cash from tapioca drink shop
operators seeking city permits.
Former Colma City Councilmen Phillip Lum and Ronald Maldonado
were accused of a similar mail fraud crime in separate federal
indictments in 2006 and 2007 for accepting airline tickets to
the Philippines from a card room owner who benefited from their
Lum pled guilty to two counts in federal court in San Francisco
in April and Maldonado pled guilty to one count in July.
Lum was a council member from 1986 to 2006 and also served several
terms as mayor. Maldonado was on the council from 2000 to 2004.
Lum was sentenced July 12 to one and one-half years in prison
by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who said, "This is
a very serious matter. It is a violation of the public trust.
People who do these things have to realize they're going to jail."
Maldonado was given a penalty of six months of home detention
on July 14 by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco,
who said Maldonado's medical problems justified a non-prison sentence.
The original mail fraud statute outlawing the use of mail to
perpetuate a scheme was passed by Congress in 1872 and was aimed
at operations such as mail-order sales of counterfeit money.
Illinois Congressman John Farnsworth, a sponsor of the 1872 law,
told his colleagues it was needed to "prevent the frauds
which are mostly gotten up in large cities ... by thieves, forgers
and rapscallions generally for the purpose of deceiving and fleecing
the innocent people of the country."
In the 1970s, federal prosecutors began using the law to convict
public officials of corruption. When the Supreme Court ruled in
1987 that the law could be used only to protect tangible property
rights, Congress responded in 1988 by passing a new provision
specifically extending the law to public corruption.
The provision states that for purposes of the law, "the
term 'scheme or artifice to defraud' includes a scheme or artifice
to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."
In the Colma case, the two former councilmen admitted to using
the mail to send in-state public disclosure forms that failed
to report the airline ticket gifts and to doing so in connection
with a scheme to defraud the people of Colma of their honest services.
Jew is accused in the Sept. 20 federal
complaint of using the mail in furtherance of a scheme by
giving the city Planning Department the go-ahead to mail a notice
of violation to the landlord and an employee of a Sunset District
tapioca drink shop in April.
Jew at the time was allegedly pressuring local operators of beverage
shops in the Taiwan based Quickly chain to pay to have a consultant
help with permit paperwork while Jew allegedly would help "from
the inside," according to an affidavit included with the
The affidavit by FBI agent Christopher McDonough alleges that
Jew agreed to accept a total of $80,000 from eight owners or would-be
owners of Quickly drink shops in the city and received $40,000
at a meeting with Quickly representatives at his Chinatown flower
store on May 7.
The affidavit says that Jew told FBI agents in a May 18 interview
that he gave half the money to an unnamed consultant and intended
to give most of the remaining $20,000 to charity. Agents found
$10,000 of the money in marked bills in a May 18 search of a house
occupied by Jew in Burlingame, according to the affidavit.
not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte in San
Francisco on Friday and is currently free on $1 million bail.
He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Oct. 11.
The mail fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in
prison upon conviction, but the actual penalty, if Jew were convicted,
would be determined after consideration of federal sentencing
Jew also faces separate state court charges of allegedly lying
about his residence during his candidacy and is due to go on trial
on those charges in San Francisco Superior Court on Oct. 26.
Editor's Note: For a chronology of Supervisor
Ed Jew's legal troubles, click
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