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Guilty Plea in City Bribe Case

A nude dance club's manager is expected to cooperate with the prosecution, which has also targeted three San Diego councilmen.

September 03, 2003|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The manager of a nude entertainment business pleaded guilty Tuesday to being part of a scheme to bribe a San Diego police officer and provide illegal campaign contributions to three city councilmen.

In a brief appearance in federal court, John D'Intino, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to an unrelated count of possessing illegal firearms. He was jailed to await sentencing in January.

D'Intino faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He is expected to provide testimony for the prosecution in hopes of getting a recommendation for leniency.

The three councilmen, the owner of Cheetahs Totally Nude dance establishment and Cheetahs' lobbyist have also been indicted in the City Hall scandal that involves an alleged attempt to bribe council members to push an amendment to city law to let nude dancers sit on patrons' laps while seeking gratuities.

Councilmen Ralph Inzunza, Michael Zucchet and Charles Lewis and Cheetahs owner Michael Galardi pleaded not guilty Friday, a day after the indictments were unsealed. Cheetahs lobbyist Lance Malone is scheduled to surrender today for arraignment.

D'Intino's attorney, Geoffrey Morrison, said his client is willing to accept responsibility for his actions and is "looking forward to moving on with his life."

According to D'Intino's plea, he directed unnamed people to write checks to the councilmen's campaigns and then reimbursed them to disguise the fact that the money came from Galardi. City law limits individual contributions to $500 and bans such reimbursements.

In one alleged telephone conversation with Galardi, D'Intino said, "We got $5,000 worth of checks for Lewis." At the time, Lewis was a candidate to succeed his longtime boss, Councilman George Stevens, who could not run again because of term limits.

According to the indictment, D'Intino's main role was to deliver cash payments of more than $40,000 to an undercover police officer in exchange for Cheetahs' getting advance word of when vice officers planned to visit to check for violations of the city's "no-touching" rule for nude dancers.

The indictment does not indicate any conversations between D'Intino and the councilmen.

On the firearms charge, D'Intino admitted that he brokered the sale of 26 machine guns and pistols with obliterated serial numbers.

His alleged supplier, Charles Tappe, has been indicted on similar charges.

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