Friday, April 18, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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No bribery charges for SLT councilmember

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From page A1 | January 27, 2014 | 6 Comments

A South Lake Tahoe City council member will not have bribery charges filed against her after an extensive review of information.

A press release from the El Dorado County District Attorney, Vern Pierson, noted that his office would not be filing bribery charges against Angela Swanson. The allegations of bribery had come from the case of Gennaro “Gino” DiMatteo, who the DA describes as “a career criminal currently serving time in federal prison, who bragged openly of connections to organized crime.”

The joint investigation with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office showed that in June and July 2012, two separate votes were made concerning DiMatteo’s marijuana dispensary, City of Angels 2.

Shortly after the first vote took place, it was discovered that DiMatteo gave a “bag of cash” to a charity of Swanson’s choice. The transaction was set up and attended by Swanson. There was no receipt of the transaction, nor was the cash counted. The investigation revealed that DiMatteo “clearly believed” that Swanson’s vote hinged on the donation, a quid pro quo situation.

The investigation encompassed multiple interviews, search warrants on multiple locations and a review of many documents. It was also revealed that DiMatteo should never have been able to open a dispensary — city ordinance prohibits convicted felons from running such facilities, yet DiMatteo was “inexplicably” allowed to.

“Ultimately, our investigation has concluded and found that while it is clear Mr. DiMatteo believed he was attempting to bribe Councilmember Swanson, it is equally clear that the Councilmember already intended to vote favorably for Mr. DiMatteo and his dispensary,” Pierson wrote. He added that the “potential usefulness” of DiMatteo’s statements is “severely hampered by the fact that (he) is currently in federal prison and has extreme credibility issues.”

The conclusion was that “Councilmember Swanson’s actions do not rise to the level sufficient to file criminal charges as she clearly harbored no criminal intent. Accordingly, this case is now closed.” Pierson noted that Swanson cooperated with the investigation.

DiMatteo accepted a plea deal in federal court last April to five years in federal prison — out of a possible 30 — and the forfeiture of $40,000. DiMatteo specifically admitted that on Aug. 31, 2012, he possessed marijuana that had been seized from his South Lake Tahoe home and had an intent to distribute it. He stated before the court that he personally was not a marijuana user.

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Discussion | 6 comments

  • EvelynJanuary 26, 2014 - 10:58 am

    The Mt. Dem reports: "DiMatteo gave a “bag of cash” to a charity of Swanson’s choice." On the other hand, the Tribune's report last week (here) : "Angela Swanson was investigated for accepting “an uncounted bag of cash”. Spot the difference?

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 26, 2014 - 11:35 am

    Evelyn, your link continues to come REDACTED on my computer(non-subscriber) . ~~~ BUT, if one right clicks on the article and chooses "view source" one can read this: ~~~ Angela Swanson was investigated for accepting “an uncounted bag of cash” from career criminal Gennaro ‘Gino’ DiMatteo between two votes on the future of DiMatteo’s former medical marijuana dispensary in the city. ~~~ The cash was for Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, a charity Swanson is involved with. The cash transaction was set up and attended by Swanson and no receipt was given during the transaction, according to the investigation. ~~~ “Our investigation revealed that Mr. DiMatteo clearly believed that prior to councilmember Swanson’s vote on his dispensary he was told that he needed to make a donation to a local South Lake Tahoe charity,” District Attorney Vern Pierson wrote in a four-page letter to the South Lake Tahoe City Council. ~~~ “Mr. DiMatteo told investigators it was his understanding — ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours.’” ~~~ The cash transaction involved approximately $1,100. ~~~ In the letter to the City Council dated Jan. 17, Pierson states it was clearly an attempted bribery under California Penal Code. But an investigation involving multiple witness interviews, search warrants on multiple locations and a review of voluminous documents concluded that while it is clear DiMatteo believed he was attempting to bribe Swanson, it is equally clear that Swanson had already intended to vote favorably for his marijuana dispensary. . . . " ~~~ But of course it is ridiculous to believe Vern is building IOUs with potential future County Supervisors. . . nope . . . no scratching of backs that I can see . . . no selective prosecutions that I know of . . . nope . . . none . . . move along . . . NEXT!

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  • cookie65January 27, 2014 - 5:35 am

    So the guy delivering on the bribe has "extreme credibility issues", but the public official receiving the bribe doesn't? This has all the pungent aroma of an overused portable outhouse left out in the hot sun of August.

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  • 1036-FrankJanuary 27, 2014 - 8:08 am

    In these type of cases of suspected corruption and bribery it is always better to put the case in front of a jury and let them make the call. "Donating to Charity" a "Foundation" or to a campaign account or using gifts and/or cash in a bag prior to a vote on that matter appears to have all the ingredients of corruption and bribery. The guy sent to prison was handing out "gifts" up there to try to keep a criminal enterprise going without a doubt and the operation wasn't much different then the convicted armed felons running these "pot shops" seen in other parts of the county. These operations and operators are usually always trouble wherever found as they always attract crime and criminals looking for a rip-off.

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  • Oh BrotherJanuary 27, 2014 - 9:19 am

    Frank-he has been convicted and is off to prison...this article is addressing a different issue...what is your take on the ISSUE AND CONTENT of this article. We all know you don't like pot and that is ok by me but I don't like ANY corrupt politicians and there seems to be a difference of opinion out of the DA's office. You are all over the Nutting corruption, what about ALL corruption...no picking and choosing.

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  • 1036-FrankJanuary 27, 2014 - 12:25 pm

    I am not aware of any disagreement in the office over this although there could be and sometimes there is on all decisions which happens as everyone has an opinion. There is a difference in evidence in this case in that the DA made the call, decided he couldn't prove, or decided the evidence of criminal intent, wasn't there. The approval of the pot shop and failure to do a criminal background check would involve numerous SLT city employees in the process for one thing. The votes were there to approve apparently on a Council majority. My take is he, the felon, said the vote she made was related to his gift and she said it wasn't as she already supported the vote, one is already a convicted felon, might be wanting revenge, and is not happy to be in prison, probably wouldn't mind a field trip to testify and get out and therefore his statement is suspect without another source of proof, and this guy was known for handing out other gifts up there as well to, in his mind at least, influence people while others would disagree these gifts were tied to anything. This is different then taking the money for personal income or for campaign use or a direct gift of travel for example which would be a better case for prosecution. I would like to hear a more detailed account of the evidence, but the summary is what is available and the investigation appears to be extensive. I don't know what from independent witnesses was known. I can state as a rule in these suspected political/corruption cases, if the evidence is there on paper, like failure to disclose income, gifts, etc, or an indictment is issued by a criminal GJ, the case should be put to a jury trial as a jury decision is in the best interests of the public.

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