Three City Council members indicted in corruption probe
Inzunza, Lewis and Zucchet accused of extortion, wire fraud
By Kristen Green
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
3:50 p.m. August 28, 2003
A federal grand jury today indicted three San Diego City Council members, strip club owner Michael Galardi, strip club manager John D'Intino and lobbyist Lance Malone in a two-year public corruption investigation.
Inzunza Lewis Zucchet
The indictments allege that council members Ralph Inzunza, Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet accepted payments from Galardi and his employees in exchange for political favors.
Inzunza, Lewis and Zucchet were indicted on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as were Galardi, D'Intino and Malone.
Inzunza, Zucchet, Galardi, D'Intino and Malone were also charged with extortion.
An aide to Lewis, David Cowan, was accused of making false statements to the FBI.
Arrangements were being made for the council members to surrender tomorrow.
The councilmen have denied any wrongdoing.
"We're unhappy that an indictment was returned. We don't believe that the facts warrant an indictment. There has been no bribery," Frank Ragen, Lewis' attorney, said Thursday. "We are going to vigorously fight these allegations."
A call to Inzunza's lawyer, Michael Pancer, was not immediately returned. A lawyer representing Zucchet, Michael Lipman, said he had not yet seen the indictments and had no comment.
The investigation became public after FBI agents and San Diego police detectives searched the three council member's City Hall offices May 14. Search warrants also were served at Jaguars and Cheetahs strip clubs in San Diego and Las Vegas owned by Michael Galardi, and at the La Jolla home of Cheetahs manager John D'Intino on the same day.
Using wiretaps, surveillance and listening devices that were monitored 24 hours a day, authorities have been investigating whether Galardi was seeking favorable treatment from council members to ease restrictions at his clubs.
The probe focuses on whether public officials were bribed with tens of thousands of dollars.
Two days after the raids, a federal grand jury in San Diego began hearing evidence in the case. It has met 14 Fridays in a row, except for the 4th of July holiday.
About 60 witnesses have appeared before the grand jury, including former City Hall staffers, former Councilman George Stevens, and employees or associates of Galardi's strip clubs in San Diego and Las Vegas.
Nooo. It can't be true.
The councilmen have denied any wrongdoing
Oh. Ok then. They seemed like such nice fellows. I was worried there for a minute. Thank Clinton that's all over.