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CALIFORNIA : Four San Jacinto officials indicted

November 13, 2009|David Kelly

RIVERSIDE — A major corruption probe led to the indictment Thursday of all but one member of the San Jacinto City Council on charges that included money laundering, bribery, fraud, perjury, conspiracy and filing false federal documents, prosecutors said.

"These illegal activities threaten the integrity of our democracy," Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco said at a news conference announcing the charges. "These elected officials were entrusted with power and misused that power to advance their own political ambition and to satisfy their greed."

The indictments focused on nine defendants charged with 56 felonies and 99 misdemeanors. They include current Mayor Dale Stubblefield; Councilman Jim Ayres and his wife, Nancy; Vice Mayor John Mansperger; and City Councilman James Potts; as well as Byron Ellison, Stephen Holgate, Robert Osborne and Scott Shaull.

All of the public officials remain in office.

Many of the allegations revolve around former Mayor Jim Ayres' unsuccessful run for the 65th Assembly District seat in 2006. According to Pacheco, "hundreds of thousands of dollars" were funneled into Ayres' campaign under false names to circumvent a state law that limits individual contributions to $6,600. In many cases, the true source was developer Holgate, with those listed as donors being reimbursed later, he said. Laundered money also was allegedly funneled into Nancy Jo Ayres' successful campaign for trustee of the San Jacinto Unified School District.

"Jim Ayres is the primary player -- and Mr. Holgate, who funded him," Pacheco said.

The 18-month investigation resulted in 32 search warrants that included the homes of Ayres, Stubblefield and Mansperger.

Prosecutors said they turned up cases of bribery involving a city official, but the D.A.'s office would not provide more details until the grand jury transcript was released.

"I have never seen anything like this, to be quite candid," Pacheco said. "I have never seen four out of five City Council members indicted in Riverside County or in the state of California. Every time we looked at something, we found something else. This has lasted 18 months and I can't tell you where it will end."

Some of the charges carry possible priston terms up to 25 years.

Attempts to reach those involved for comment were mostly unsuccessful. A call to Ayres' home resulted in a return call from an unidentified woman who screamed, "Don't ever call my house again!"

Councilman Potts said his lawyer had advised him to say nothing.

"In this country we are innocent until proven guilty," he said. "I won't resign. I will stay on the job."

Messages left for the mayor and vice mayor were not immediately returned.

All of those indicted have appeared in court and been released on bail.

Steve Di Memmo is the only councilman not under a cloud. Pacheco praised him for cooperating during the probe.

"I would hope they would do the right thing and step down, but it's up to the public to tell them that," Di Memmo said.

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david.kelly@latimes.com

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