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3 San Diego Officials, Clubs Focus of FBI Raid

The councilmen and strip parlors in two cities are target of campaign finance investigation.

May 15, 2003|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — FBI agents Wednesday raided the offices of three San Diego City Council members, along with strip clubs in San Diego and Las Vegas, in an apparent probe into allegations of improper campaign contributions.

The agents, working with San Diego police, carted records from the City Hall offices of council members Charles Lewis, Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza. Officials also raided three strip clubs, seizing records and ordering noontime patrons out after taking names and checking identifications.

Newly appointed U.S. Atty. Carol C. Lam held a brief news conference Wednesday afternoon to confirm that City Hall search warrants had been served.

"No charges have been filed at this time," Lam said. "Every effort will be made to conclude the investigation as expeditiously as possible."

During the 2002 election campaign, opponents of Lewis had suggested that Cheetah strip-club owner Mike Galardi and his associates were making campaign contributions in hopes of getting city approval to open a new strip club.

The FBI also raided two other clubs -- Cheetah's and Jaguars -- owned by Galardi in Las Vegas.

City Hall officials said Galardi has not sought approval for a second club in San Diego since the 2002 election.

After meeting with Lam, a grim-faced Mayor Dick Murphy, a former Superior Court judge, held a news conference to announce that his office is not a target of the investigation.

During their election campaigns, Lewis received about $2,000 from Galardi and others associated with Cheetah's, and Inzunza about $1,500.

Both resisted calls from opponents to return the money and renounce the support.

Zucchet and Inzunza were unavailable for comment. But Lewis, a City Council aide before being elected last year, told reporters, "I intend to fully cooperate with whatever they want to know."

Inzunza was also a council aide before being elected in 2001.

Zucchet was director of governmental affairs for the firefighters' union before his election last year.

At a Las Vegas club, one dancer told a television station that agents "came in with their guns and told us to put our hands up."

At Cheetah's in San Diego, some patrons covered their faces as they dashed for their cars as television crews descended on the parking lot of the club, located in a strip mall in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood.

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