Sansone Given 6 Months for Bribes in Poker Case

Times Staff Writer

Las Vegas gambling figure Frank J. Sansone was sentenced Monday to six months in prison and fined $20,000 for his role in bribing four City of Commerce officials by giving them secret shares in a poker casino in return for a license to operate it.

The 47-year-old Sansone, who was president of the California Commerce Club, was found guilty by a federal court jury March 22 on a single count of operating an illegal gambling business and three counts of bribery-related mail fraud.

The four officials pleaded guilty earlier to bribery charges and testified against Sansone and a co-defendant, Orange County businessman W. Patrick Moriarty, who pleaded guilty in mid-trial to three mail fraud counts.

Testimony revealed that the officials went to Las Vegas in 1981 for the first in a series of meetings that led to Sansone’s group getting a license to open the card club in return for the secret shares. Subsequently, Moriarty was brought in as the club’s major financier. Later, he ousted Sansone.


In sentencing Sansone, U.S. District Judge William J. Rea said, “You were involved in the formulation of the plan and you agreed to a hidden ownership by public officials. It was a significant role in the process of public corruption. What you did reflects a disdain for the citizens of the City of Commerce and their right to have business done out in the open.”

The judge imposed the relatively light sentence after hearing Sansone say, “It is hard to explain the pain this has caused my wife and family. They really need me now. That is all I have to say.”

Michael Capizzi, the assistant district attorney from Orange County who was appointed a special federal prosecutor in the case, asked for a nine-year sentence for Sansone “so that he would serve at least three years and (so that it would) be a term severe enough to deter others and so (he) won’t think it was worth taking the risk.”

In asking for leniency, Sansone’s attorney, Richard Walton, told the judge, “Your honor seems to have carefully worked out a scale of culpability in this case, and on that scale, I think Mr. Sansone belongs closer to the bottom than the top.”


Earlier Sentences

Rea earlier had followed the recommendations of Chief U.S. Atty. Richard Drooyan in imposing sentences of 10 months for Robert Eula, eight months for Arthur A. Loya and three months for Ricardo Vasquez, the three city councilmen involved in the scheme, and six months for Phil C. Jacks, who was the city’s director of economic development at the time.

Moriarty is to be sentenced in June after the government has evaluated the value of his cooperation in an ongoing investigation by federal and state agencies of state legislators and city council members who allegedly received favors from him in the form of money, prostitutes, vehicles, vacation housing and the hiring of relatives.

The City of Commerce officials testified that they approached Sansone at the MGM Grand Hotel, where he was manager of the card room. When Sansone and his Las Vegas associates were unable to come up with the money to build the proposed poker club, Moriarty was enlisted to provide financing at the suggestion of Eula. Both Sansone and Moriarty agreed to the plan to give the city officials secret shares in the casino in return for rigging the granting of the exclusive gambling license.


Sentencing in Bell Casino Case

In a sentencing in another public corruption case, Jean Dadanian, a 49-year-old Whittier jeweler, was sent to prison for nine months and fined $23,000 for holding a Bell city official’s secret interest in the Bell Club, a poker casino that opened two years before the California Commerce Club.

Dadanian and his brother, George, 41, also of Whittier, were convicted last Dec. 21 of hiding City Administrator John Pitts’ share in the club and of secretly channeling profits from the gambling operation to him for three years. The younger Dadanian is scheduled to be sentenced June 17.