Grand jury: Colma politician took gifts from casino
A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted 20-year Colma Town Council member and five-time mayor, Philip Lum Jr., Tuesday on charges that he accepted and failed to report gifts from the owner of Lucky Chances cardroom and then voted on matters benefiting the casino.
The indictment, the result of a three-year investigation by the FBI, alleges that the 53-year-old Lum accepted first-class and coach plane tickets to the Philippines in 1999, 2000 and 2001 as gifts from Lucky Chances owner Rene Medina.
Lum, who said he had not heard about the indictment when contacted, called it "shocking" and made no further comment.
His attorney, George Walker, said Lum was "not guilty of any of this" and "any trip that he made can be accounted for in a legal fashion."
"[The grand jury] has decided to go forward with what I think is a paucity of evidence," Walker said.
The indictment alleges that Lum did not report the gifts on his California Form 700, a document public officials are required to file annually to disclose any economic interests they may have, here or anywhere else, according to the Department of Justice.
Lum allegedly voted in some council actions to benefit the casino, Medina or both, according to the release.
"The bigger picture is that he was accepting these gifts and made beneficial votes for the casino afterward," Department of Justice spokesman Luke Macaulay said.
Macaulay added that Lum’s failure to report the tickets showed "intent" to conceal his actions.
Medina was arrested in March with his niece and nephew on charges of filing false federal income tax returns for Lucky Chances and avoiding personal income taxes.
Macaulay could not comment on whether Lum’s indictment and Medina’s arrest came from the same investigation. He also didn’t elaborate on the votes Lum may have made to benefit Medina or the casino.
Colma receives approximately one-third of its $12 million annual revenue from Lucky Chances, which opened in 1998.
First elected in 1986 at the age of 33, Lum is currently running for re-election to a sixth term on the Town Council with one challenger, Joanne del Rosario, seeking either his or Mayor Helen Fisicaro’s seat.
Recently retired, Lum worked for the high-end men’s clothing store, Wilkes Bashford, for 35 years, working his way up to chief operating officer.
Lum will make his first appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Oct. 10. The maximum penalty for each count of conspiracy and theft of honest services mail fraud is 20 years and a fine of $250,firstname.lastname@example.org