The U.S. Attorney’s Office today filed this superseding indictment today against the five former city of San Diego pension officials who were charged in January 2006 for their alleged roles in the city’s pension scandal.

The Union-Tribune, which first reported the new indictment, said it included charges of straight wire and mail fraud against the five officials.

The previous indictment issued in January 2006 used the same facts but accused them of the potentially more difficult to prove honest services fraud. While the honest services fraud charges remain, this new indictment essentially gives prosecutors a second theory of guilt to pursue in the case.

Honest services wire fraud can be a tough crime to prove in court because of its vague definition — that a public official deprived the public of its right to “honest services.” Here’s how I described it in this 2005 story about the pending indictments:

Virtually all political corruption cases include charges that the accused deprived the public of its intangible right to “honest services.” Except for those cases in which there is a clear quid pro quo — Latin for “something for something” — the honest services statute is invoked. It is a statute that casts a wide web and falls under the umbrella of the mail and wire fraud laws.

Charges of honest services wire fraud were used in the so-called “Strippergate” case brought in 2003 against three former city councilmen and strip club officials, among other charges such as extortion.

To that end, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in September subpoenaed “all documents and communications concerning interstate commercial carriers” such as Federal Express and UPS, signs that prosecutors would be looking for evidence that a fraud was committed across state lines, which would be a crime.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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