Judge Upholds Dismissal of Mail-Fraud Charges Against 10 in County Phone Case
U. S. District Judge Earl B. Gilliam on Monday upheld an earlier ruling dismissing mail-fraud charges against 10 men indicted in connection with the awarding of a contract for a $24.5-million San Diego County telephone system.
Special federal prosecutor Lantz Lewis said he intends to seek authorization today to appeal the judge’s action to the U. S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In October, Gilliam threw out indictments against two former county employees and eight telecommunications officials charged in the so-called Telink case. Gilliam cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that restricts mail-fraud prosecutions to those in which indictments specify a monetary or property loss suffered by the victim--in this case, the county government.
Monday’s 11-page ruling rested on the same reasoning. The government’s indictment in the Telink case “suffers from the fatal flaw” of not alleging, with specificity, “a scheme that would result in a money or property loss to the county,” Gilliam wrote.
Flaws in Ruling Alleged
Lewis, however, argues that the judge’s interpretation of the Supreme Court decision is flawed and illogical. He noted that the purpose of mail fraud statutes historically has been to prevent the abuse of the mails by perpetrators of fraud. Under Gilliam’s interpretation, he said, “law enforcement authorities would be forced to sit on their hands while crooks distribute false representations through the mail,” and could only act after learning whether the scheme had been successful.
The Telink scandal became public in October, 1982, when law enforcement agents seized documents from offices and homes of more than a dozen county and telecommunications industry officials. The case involved a county bid award for a sophisticated microwave communications system to an Orange County company, Telink.
The indictments, which prompted the resignations of a handful of county administrators, contained descriptions of the use of cocaine, prostitutes and bribes in the attempt to influence the contract. Telink and its parent company eventually pleaded no contest to charges of fraud and racketeering and repaid the county $3.6 million for its losses, plus $1 million for costs of the prosecution.
The government has 30 days to appeal Gilliam’s ruling, Lewis said.