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Lawyer Says Egan Was a Courier but Not a Lawbreaker

May 01, 1986|DONNA ST. GEORGE | Times Staff Writer

CARSON — Indicted Councilman Walter J. (Jake) Egan was the courier for $20,000 in allegedly unlawful contributions that convicted political fixer W. Patrick Moriarty and his associate provided for Carson campaign activities, Egan's attorney acknowledged this week.

But Egan did not use the money himself and did nothing wrong, attorney Robert B. Gaunt said in an interview that provided new information about Egan's role in the political activities that led to his indictment last week by a federal grand jury on charges of mail fraud and interference with commerce by extortion.

Gaunt said Egan has told authorities that he delivered a $5,000 check to a political consultant as the first contribution to a campaign in the spring of 1981 that was backed by Moriarty and his associates.

The campaign was created to help elect an official who would support Moriarty's plan to develop a 160-acre landfill in central Carson, according to several of those involved in the effort. The campaign ultimately was fueled by at least $30,000 from Moriarty and an associate, Richard Raymond Keith, spread among three political action committees, according to public records and interviews with Moriarty and Keith.

After the campaign ended with the election of Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt, the political committees continued operating for about six months. Egan told investigators that he later returned another $15,000 in contributions to Moriarty when the Carson campaign ended, Gaunt said.

"I don't see how they can prove this activity is illegal or that it was an attempt to defraud the city of Carson" as is charged in the indictment, said Gaunt, who added that he has discussed the indictment with prosecutors but has not yet reviewed it.

"It is an interesting theory, but . . . I couldn't see that Jake should have reported anything because he didn't get the money."

The 11-count federal indictment claims that Egan was required by state law to disclose his participa tion in the Moriarty-backed campaign. State law requires political committees that receive contributions report "each person, if any, with which the committee is affiliated or connected," the document says.

In previous interviews with The Times, Egan has denied that he was a central figure in the Moriarty-backed campaign. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday and previously did not wish to elaborate on the charges until he had reviewed the indictment.

The indictment specifically charged Egan, a two-term councilman, with nine counts of mail fraud and two counts of interference with commerce by extortion. The complaint centers on allegations that Egan accepted illegal contributions from Moriarty in exchange for Egan's support of a multimillion-dollar development planned by Moriarty.

Moriarty was a general partner in a firm called Casa del Amo Estates, which held a long-term lease on the Carson property. The company initially planned to develop the site as a mobile home park, but later proposed a $750-million business and industrial center after state health officials became concerned about the potential danger of constructing housing on a contaminated dump site.

Moriarty's plans died when he became the central figure in a statewide political corruption investigation, which has been described as California's biggest in 30 years. Moriarty, who has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, has made at least $260,000 in hidden contributions to politicians since 1980, according to former Moriarty associates and public records.

Nine Convicted

Egan's indictment is the 11th stemming from the Moriarty investigation, being jointly conducted by the U.S. attorney and the Orange County district attorney. So far, nine of those charged have been convicted or pleaded guilty and one has been acquitted. Egan is to be arraigned Monday.

In effect, Egan's indictment charges that he engineered "a scheme" to conceal campaign activities and special-interest influences arising from his connection with Moriarty and Moriarty's former associate, Keith, who is serving a four-year prison term in connection with the Moriarty case.

The indictment claims that at a meeting with Moriarty and Keith in 1980, Egan solicited money for the creation of a political action committee. It says the committee, later dubbed the Public Information and Education Committee, was formally established at Egan's instruction by political consultant Arthur Forcier, who lives in Studio City and works as an instructor at East Los Angeles College.

In exchange for money to launch the committee, the indictment alleges, Egan agreed to attempt to elect candidates to the City Council who would support Moriarty's development proposal, while also trying to win incumbents' endorsements of it.

Allegedly Gave Information

As part of the deal, Egan himself agreed to support the Moriarty project and to provide Moriarty and Keith with information from City Council executive sessions, the indictment charges.

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