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Moriarty Pleads Guilty, Will Testify on Bribery : Leading Figure in Poker Club Corruption Case Expected to Implicate a Number of Officials

March 13, 1985|BILL FARR | Times Staff Writer

Orange County businessman W. Patrick Moriarty pleaded guilty Tuesday to a variety of corruption charges and agreed to be a government witness against politicians who allegedly received bribes from him in the form of money, prostitutes, vehicles, vacation housing and the hiring of relatives.

In the plea agreement, the 53-year-old head of an Anaheim company that manufactures and distributes Red Devil fireworks also consented to forfeiture of $34 million in proceeds from his sale of stock in a City of Commerce poker casino.

Three of the seven mail fraud counts to which Moriarty pleaded guilty stem from giving secret shares in the California Commerce Club to four city officials in return fro their granting a license for the gambling club.

The other guilty pleas came on four new mail fraud charges filed Tuesday by the U.S. attorney's office, charging him with making illegal contributions to politicians and with paying kickbacks to a bank official.

Moriarty faces a possible maximum sentence of 35 years and fines of $7,000 on the seven counts, but Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard Drooyan said the government will inform U.S. District Judge William J. Rea of "the extent of Mr. Moriarty's cooperation" in the continuing corruption investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. attorney's office and the Orange County district attorney.

Drooyan asked that Moriarty's sentencing be delayed for 90 days "to enable him to take part in that investigation." Rea then set June 10 as the date for a sentence to be imposed, reiterating to Moriarty that no deal had been made on the punishment he would receive.

The surprise pleas came just after the midday break on the fifth day of testimony in the Los Angeles federal court trial of Moriarty and Las Vegas gambling figure Frank J. Sansone in connection with the card club scheme. The trial continued with Sansone as the lone defendant after the proceedings were interrupted for 40 minutes while Rea presided over the plea agreement.

Moriarty walked quietly from the courtroom, surrounded by his large family. He declined to comment on his future role in the investigation, leaving his attorney, Jan Lawrence Handzlik, to answer questions.

Handzlik said Moriarty felt "greatly relieved" to be out from under the racketeering charge in the Commerce card club trial. The attorney said he had hoped to n3egotiate the agreement with prosecutors before the start of the trial but that "the wide-ranging and complex scope of the topics to be covered ultimately made that impossible."

Spotlight on Officials It became obvious after Tuesday's proceedings that the focus of what law enforcement officials say could be the most extensive political corruption case in California history will shift from the City of Commerce and put the spotlight on elected officials from Sacramento to Los Angeles City Hall.

At least 17 current and former public officials have had business dealings with Moriarty, The Times has reported in stories detailing his business and political activities.

The business dealings include investments in a Baldwin Hills condominium project at a time when Moriarty was seeking favorable action on a fireworks bill pending before the Legislature in Sacramento.

In addition, associates have said that Moriarty provided several lawmakers and bankers with financial favors, prostitutes and the use of condominiums in Hawaii and other recreational areas.

One of the new counts to which Moriarty pleaded guilty Tuesday charged him with making numerous political contributions in the names of others with the intent of concealing his identity as the actual contributor. This scheme, first outlined in a Times story in January, was carried out in both state and local elections "beginning at a date unknown and continuing at least until June 1, 1983," according to the charge to which he pleaded guilty. No specific amounts nor the names of recipients were listed.

Moriarty also pleaded guilty to making illegal payments to public officials in an effort to influence their actions.

The government document lists some particulars on this count, saying that Moriarty "provided public officials with free vacation housing (and) with investments promising substantial rates of return, plus hiring or retaining public officials or their relatives."

This count also accuses Moriarty with supplying an automobile to an elected official and providing furniture to another official.

Neither the prosecutors nor Handzlik, Moriarty' attorney, were willing to name the politicians who are the targets of the ongoing investigation. However, the wording of the new charges to which Moriarty pleaded guilty provides an indication of the identity of some of those under scrutiny.

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