Las Vegas gambling figure Frank J. Sansone, the lone defendant left in the City of Commerce card club trial, was found guilty Friday on a single charge of running an illegal gambling operation and three counts of bribery-related mail fraud.
At the end of 2 1/2 days of deliberations, the Los Angeles federal court jury acquitted him on nine other charges, including racketeering, the most serious count in the indictment alleging that he took part in a scheme to bribe Commerce city officials by giving them secret shares in a poker casino.
U.S. District Judge William J. Rea ordered the 47-year-old Sansone to return to court April 29 for sentencing. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $24,000 fine.
Both prosecutor Richard Drooyan and defense attorney Richard Walton said they were pleased with the verdicts which came at the end of a three-week trial interrupted briefly March 12 when Sansone's co-defendant, Orange County businessman W. Patrick Moriarty, pleaded guilty to three mail fraud counts.
Several months before the trial, former City Councilmen Robert Eula, Arthur A. Loya and Ricardo Vasquez pleaded guilty and agreed to be government witnesses as did the city's director of economic development, Phil C. Jacks. All four are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Moriarty's sentencing was delayed until mid-June to give him additional time to assist the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. attorney's office and Orange County district attorney's office in the ongoing public corruption investigation that stretches from the Legislature in Sacramento to local governments in Southern California.
Commenting on Friday's verdicts, prosecutor Drooyan said: "We were pleased that the jury found Sansone to be a willing and knowing participant in the bribery scheme." He declined to speculate why the jurors voted for acquittal on so many of the counts against the former MGM Grand card room manager. The jurors left the courthouse without meeting with reporters to discuss their verdicts.
Most of the Counts
"We are happy that we beat most of the counts, including the big one" defense lawyer Walton said. He was referring to the racketeering count, which carried a 20-year sentence by itself plus the forfeiture of $1 million that Sansone was paid by Moriarty to leave the poker casino operation in September, 1983, just seven weeks after the card club opened. "I would have liked to have beat them all," Sansone added, "but I am pretty happy, too, about what the jury did."
Testimony at the trial revealed that the city officials went to Las Vegas in August, 1981, for what was the first in a series of meetings that led to Sansone's group getting a license to open the California Commerce Club in return for giving the officials secret shares in the casino.
Eula, Vasquez and Jacks testified at the trial that Sansone participated in almost all of the meetings that led to the rigged granting of the card club license. Sansone took the witness stand to say he never offered anyone secret shares nor was he present when such offers were made by others.