Assemblyman Scott Baugh charged $15,010 on his credit cards last year in a fraudulent scheme with a close friend who owns a convenience market near Baugh’s home, according to court papers filed by the Orange County district attorney’s office on Tuesday.
Prosecutors allege in a search warrant affidavit that Baugh charged the money in at least six transactions on his credit cards June 15, 1995, without receiving any goods or services from Huntington Beach store owner Adel Zeidan, who later became a major donor to Baugh’s campaign.
The transactions were made to help Zeidan falsely obtain cash advances, according to the court papers. Zeidan repaid Baugh’s accounts before any interest charges accrued, according to court papers. Baugh (R-Huntington Beach), who has not been charged in connection with the alleged scheme, denied any wrongdoing, saying the district attorney’s latest investigation is a “systematic and insidious effort” to harass him.
In successfully seeking permission June 3 to search Baugh and Zeidan’s bank records and Zeidan’s market, district attorney’s investigator Randy Sorley concluded that the pair committed felony conspiracy and misdemeanor credit card fraud in at least six transactions, the affidavit contends.
Assistant Dist. Atty. John Conley declined to comment on whether indictments would be sought against the freshman legislator or Zeidan, who owns Ocean Pacific Market in Huntington Beach.
Baugh already faces trial Aug. 26 on four felony counts and 18 misdemeanors for allegedly concealing or misreporting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and loans and for allegedly persuading his campaign treasurer to lie under oath about the source of some campaign funds. One of the misdemeanor counts stems from a cash contribution from Zeidan.
The indictment, issued in March, stems from alleged wrongdoing in last year’s special election in the 67th Assembly District, which Baugh won. Three GOP aides have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for their roles in placing a decoy Democrat on the ballot to siphon votes from a popular Democrat. Two others face felony indictments.
Baugh said Tuesday that the district attorney is trying to force Zeidan to testify against him in the campaign finance case. Zeidan has admitted that Baugh accepted $8,800 in cash for his campaign, a violation of state law barring the use of cash in political campaigns.
“It is quite apparent that the district attorney is engaged in a systematic and insidious effort to harass, threaten and intimidate anybody who dares to testify on my behalf,” Baugh said.
The credit card fraud law prohibits any person from processing or obtaining payment of a credit card charge if the retailer did not agree to furnish goods and services.
Credit card industry experts said the court papers outline the sort of scheme under which a person could create a cash flow and do it more cheaply than by obtaining money through the cash advance mechanism on credit cards.