Ed Jew, a San Francisco supervisor who has been accused of attempting to extort $80,000 from a group of fast-food business owners has pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bail.
Jew was charged Thursday with one federal count of mail fraud after accusations stemming from an FBI sting where it is asserted that operators of a group of tapioca drink shops gave Jew $40,000 in cash and said they would pay him another $40,000 later.
Jew has acknowledged taking the money but asserts that he did so at the businessmen’s insistence and on behalf of a consultant he recommended they hire to help with their permit problem.
Jew was already facing felony charges of perjury and election code violations for allegedly lying about where he lived so he could run for office in San Francisco; he has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well. Jew’s federal criminal defense attorney, Steven Gruel, called the mail fraud count a “throwaway charge because you can’t get something else…[what kind of influence could Jew possibly have had over the issuing of city permits]….He doesn’t control the planning commission, and he certainly doesn’t control what types of permits are necessary for retailers.”
Jew’s trial on the perjury and election code allegations is to begin late next month. Gruel questioned the timing of the “media-friendly” federal charge, claiming that the surrounding publicity will taint the jury pool in the other case. “I have grave concerns whether or not the supervisor can get a fair trial in San Francisco on those state charges,” Gruel asserted.
Mail fraud is a crime under 18 U.S.C. § 1341. Under this section, it is illegal to devise a scheme to defraud and then use the mail to carry out the scheme. The punishment for committing mail fraud is a fine, imprisonment for up to 20 years or both.If convicted, money laundering carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine, and mail fraud carries a maximum 20-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.