New corruption charges include alleged straw donor scheme

Keith Jackson, the former school board president charged in relation to a political bribery scheme along with two other political operatives, faces additional charges for allegedly using straw donors to funnel money in excess of legal limits to unknown political campaigns.

Jackson, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering along with former state Sen. Leland Yee in a separate federal case, was charged with bribery and money laundering this week in San Francisco Superior Court, along with former Human Rights Commission Nazly Mohajer and former HRC staffer Zula Jones. All three are scheduled for arraignment Friday morning.

The charges against Jackson, Mohajer and Jones appear to be linked to the Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow case through an undercover FBI agent who allegedly bribed the trio in order to help retire Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign debt. Jackson’s straw donor charges closely mirror schemes detailed in FBI wiretaps released as part of the Chow case.

Political campaign donations are limited to $500 per person. To circumvent these limitations, large donors can illegally donate through bundled straw donors.

According to court filings, Jackson used the following people as straw donors: Terry Mitchell, listed in campaign finance filings as a Lennar Urban employee, gave $500 to Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 on May 1, 2012. Mitchell reportedly gave the same amount to Leland Yee for Mayor 2011 on June 24, 2012.

When called for comment, Mitchell said: “No. I am not interested in talking to you about any of that. No thank you.”

Mitchell appeared on FBI wiretaps on April 5, 2013, in a conversation with Jackson.

George Mitchell, of Richmond, was mentioned in the charges. He allegedly donated $500 to Leland Yee for Mayor 2011 on June 10, 2012.

James Adams, who, according to campaign finance reports, donated $500 to Leland Yee for Mayor 2011, wrote a check on May 3, 2012.

Jo Antoinette Hopkins, according to campaign finance filings, donated $500 to Leland Yee for Mayor 2011 on Nov. 28, 2012, and another $500 to Sharmin Bock on Feb. 25, 2013. Hopkins is listed in campaign filings as the executive director of the Family Restoration House.

Bock ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 2011.

The straw donor charges mirror conversations caught on tape:

According to the wiretaps, on April 17, 2012, Jones called undercover agent UCE 4773, also known as Michael King, and said, “Ed knows that you gave $10,000 … he knows that … he knows that you will give another $10,000. He also knows that we had to break the $10,000 up. I can give you the list of names if that’s what you want. The people that we broke it down … which I promised you I was gonna do.”

Jones went on to say she needed to consult with Mohajer, who made copies of the checks.

“They were mostly my family and my close friends. People I trust,” Jones said on the wiretaps.

In April 2013, King spoke with Mohajer about breaking up $10,000. King agreed to breaking up the funds, and Mohajer said, “Yeah, we can do that, we can do that, we have no problem with that … but the only thing is … you can never talk to anybody about this. You know that?”

In another recorded conversation on April 28, 2013, Jackson called Yee and explained the scheme. “Steve Lau writes $500 check to Sharmin, I give that check then to Sharmin’s people who write $500, then if I do that she is going to be motivated to do another event for me.”

King said this was the way Jackson and Yee worked around the donor laws.

“I believe this conversation related to Yee swapping donation checks with Bock as part of his larger scheme to circumvent state and local campaign finance laws,” he said.

Mayor Lee has denied any connection to the schemes.

“The Ethics Commission in both 2011 and in 2015 conducted a comprehensive audit of the mayor’s campaign finances and determined there was full compliance and Judge Charles Breyer’s comments that exonerated the mayor as pertains to all of the evidence in the Chow case,” wrote mayoral spokesperson Christine Falvey in an email.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink

BribescorruptionCrimeDistrict Attorney George GasconEd LeeKeith JacksonNazly MohajerRaymond Shrimp Boy ChowSan Francisco politicsZula Jones

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