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September 6, 2012
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Former pot shop owner pleads not guilty

Former South Shore medical marijuana dispensary owner Gino DiMatteo has pleaded not guilty to felony charges including bribing a City Council member and possession of a controlled substance.

Gennaro "Gino" DiMatteo and his wife, Irene DiMatteo, were arrested Aug. 31. Details of the arrests have not been made public by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors have charged Gino DiMatteo, who previously operated the City of Angels 2 Collective, with bribery, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of Methelone and illegal possession of ammunition.

DiMatteo, who is also referred to as Sergio Franco Ottomanelli in a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, remained in custody in El Dorado County Jail in Placerville Thursday afternoon.

El Dorado County public defender David Cramer said he entered not guilty pleas to the charges against DiMatteo in Placerville on Tuesday. He said he did not expect to represent DiMatteo as the case moves forward and has not seen any details of the arrest, including a police report.

The prosecutor in the case, El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney James Clinchard did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Tuesday's criminal complaint alleges that DiMatteo unlawfully offered and gave a bribe to a City Council member "with intent to corruptly influence said member in his/her action on a matter and subject pending before and which was afterward to be considered by said body of which he/she was a member."

City Councilwoman Angela Swanson acknowledged she was involved in the District Attorney's Office investigation in a Monday statement, but has declined to discuss details. She said she has done nothing to intentionally betray the public trust in the statement. Swanson has not been charged with a crime.

According to the criminal complaint, the alleged bribery happened between June 5 and June 13, when the council was considering allowing City of Angels to move to around the corner. The council denied the move the following month. Swanson voiced support for allowing the dispensary to relocate during meetings where the proposal was discussed.

Count 3 of Tuesday's criminal complaint charges DiMatteo with possession of Methelone. Few references to Methelone could be found online. South Lake Tahoe El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Jeff Catchings said he thought the drug was a prescription medication, but wasn't certain.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration added the drug Methylone to the list of Schedule I substances in October, placing it in the same category as LSD and heroin. The drug has a similar chemical structure to Ecstasy and been used as an alternative to substances such as cocaine and amphetamines. The drug first appeared in the U.S. in 2009 and there has been rapid and significant abuse of the substance, which is sometimes marketed as "bath salts," according to the DEA.

It is unclear if Methelone and Methylone are the same substance.

The fourth count of the criminal complaint charges DiMatteo with being a felon in possession of ammunition, stemming from a 1999 conviction in Bergen County, New Jersey for felony possession of a handgun.

Attorney and former City Councilman Ted Long, who said he is representing Irene DiMatteo, was critical of the allegations against the couple, saying the District Attorney's Office has been tight-lipped about the case.

"Nobody has seen any evidence," Long said.

"I think it's a get-even for the pot shop years when they couldn't do anything," Long added.

Irene DiMattteo is no longer in police custody and has not been charged in connection with the arrest. Long said he suspected her arrest was an effort to get Gino DiMatteo to talk to prosecutors out of concern for his wife.

A bail review hearing for DiMatteo is scheduled for Friday in Placerville, with the next hearing on the matter scheduled for Monday.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 6, 2012 08:44PM Published Sep 6, 2012 08:42PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.