South Lake Tahoe councilwoman cleared in bribery investigation
A South Lake Tahoe councilwoman has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing after a bribery investigation by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office.
Angela Swanson was investigated for accepting “an uncounted bag of cash” from career criminal Gennaro ‘Gino’ DiMatteo between two votes on the future of DiMatteo’s former medical marijuana dispensary in the city.
The cash was for Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, a charity Swanson is involved with. The cash transaction was set up and attended by Swanson and no receipt was given during the transaction, according to the investigation.
“Our investigation revealed that Mr. DiMatteo clearly believed that prior to councilmember Swanson’s vote on his dispensary he was told that he needed to make a donation to a local South Lake Tahoe charity,” District Attorney Vern Pierson wrote in a four-page letter to the South Lake Tahoe City Council.
“Mr. DiMatteo told investigators it was his understanding — ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours.’”
The cash transaction involved approximately $1,100.
In the letter to the City Council dated Jan. 17, Pierson states it was clearly an attempted bribery under California Penal Code. But an investigation involving multiple witness interviews, search warrants on multiple locations and a review of voluminous documents concluded that while it is clear DiMatteo believed he was attempting to bribe Swanson, it is equally clear that Swanson had already intended to vote favorably for his marijuana dispensary.
“Upon a final review of all the evidence, it is our conclusion that South Lake Tahoe City Councilmember Swanson’s actions do not rise to the level sufficient to file criminal charges as she clearly harbored no criminal intent. Accordingly, this case is now closed,” Pierson wrote.
The investigation also revealed that the South Lake Tahoe City Council approved permits for DiMatteo to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city despite his being a convicted felon and city ordinances prohibiting convicted felons from running dispensaries.
Swanson said she appreciates how thorough the district attorney’s office was in its investigation and how strongly it made the finding that she harbored no criminal intent in the interaction and always voted with integrity.
“I appreciate them taking their time, doing their job thoughtfully and carefully and coming through with a perspective I heartily agree with and appreciate,” Swanson said.
DiMatteo is serving time in federal prison. He was sentenced to five years as part of a plea agreement reached in April 2013. As part of that agreement, DiMatteo pleaded guilty to a single felony count of drug trafficking.
During a 2012 raid on his Angora Lake Road home, authorities recovered about 5 pounds of processed marijuana and found an inactive grow room that they estimated could have yielded between 22 and 25 pounds of marijuana four times a year and made about $320,000 annually.
According to Pierson, DiMatteo has “bragged openly of connections to organized crime.”