Recently we wrote about State Senator Leland Yee’s arrest by the FBI on corruption and gun running charges. In a late-breaking revelation, we have discovered a Tustin Connection to Lee, also known as “Uncle Leland” and his chief proponent, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a known San Francisco gangland figure.
Yee, who was arrested last week, has been discovered to have orchestrated several trips to local restaurants in Tustin. The purpose of the trips were unclear but appear to have implicated local politicians in a web of money-laundering and political chicanery.
Notable in the affidavit used to issue the arrest warrant for Yee and others tied to the conspiracy was a reference on page 168 to a political “consultant” known in the document only as “Uncle Jerry”. The affidavit details meetings between Yee, “Shrimp Boy” and “Uncle Jerry” in a local teppan house to discuss an airsoft gunrunning operation run by “Uncle Jerry”. “Uncle Jerry ” proposed furnishing airsoft rifles and ammunition to Yee and his cohorts in exchange for becoming Yee’s chief houseboy from OC. The suspect has previously received awards from the Tustin City Council as an “agent of change” for his work toward rescuing abandoned Springer Spaniels and retraining them as lap dogs for the homeless. “Uncle Jerry” is also reported to have ties to the famous Hop Sing Tong operating as far north as Virginia City, Nevada.
A search warrant was reportedly served on the residence of the suspect who had been hiding his operation by claiming he breeds Springer Spaniel dogs in his garage. And, although the suspect has often been seen riding around in borrowed vintage vehicles with a brown and white dog on his lap, there are no reports by the city of Tustin for a kennel license. As added cover, his wife allegedly trains dogs in local parks. Again, no business license or other documentation has been provided by the city to verify this.
When agents searched the suspect’s home, they found several hundred high-end, automatic airsoft rifles and handguns with the orange tips removed. At least a hundred thousand rounds of ammunition were also located in dog crates with false bottoms. An OCFA Hazmat team and the OCSD bomb squad were called in to remove the pooh-covered weapons.
Another section of the affidavit detailing the Tustin operation revealed a connection to current city government officials. An undercover FBI informant allegedly met with a cohort and former colleague of “Uncle Jerry” on several occasions. Al “Starbucks” Murray allegedly had lattes and chocolate croissants with the suspects where “Uncle Jerry acted as an intermediary. The undercover informant, known only as “The Podiatrist”, does not specify what the conversation was about although he alleges several dollars and two rewards were transferred to Murray’s Gold Starbucks card after the meeting.
Yee has been released after posting a half million dollar bail. “Uncle Jerry” was reportedly arrested and offered $100 if he would choose to stay out of jail. His dog, however, was impounded and is being housed in protective custody at the Orange County Animal Shelter. Murray has not been charged.
We will keep you up to date as details become known. However, if you have not figured it out by now, perhaps you should look at the date and do not hold your breath for further information.
As the kids head back to school (I can’t get that Staples jingle out of my head) and the leaves begin to fall here in Tustin, campaign season is already in full swing. Most of the candidates have had a fundraiser or two in the past few weeks and more are heading your way.
New candidate, “Dr.” Allan Bernstein, has had two fundraisers that we know of, one at the Wilcox Manor and the other at that bastion of Republicanism in Old Town, Quinn’s Old Town Grill. And, just remember, you may be able to buy the “Best of” designation from the Orange County Register (who’s the judge?) but you can’t from the OC Weekly where the people speak. And, as far as I know, Quinn’s hasn’t even made the finals at the OCW in any year since they have been open. We were invited to the party but, somehow, I doubt we would have gotten in the door.
Bernstein is sort of an enigma around town. He first appeared at the Tustin Chili Cookoff sporting a judges badge and a pin that looked a lot like the City Seal of Tustin with the word, “candidate” underneath. He has also sent out campaign material with a photo of him on the dais of the Tustin council chambers with the Tustin City Seal above his head. Both of these are campaign violations but no one seems to be too concerned as we have notified the OC District Attorney’s Office. Maybe a call to the FPPC? Bernstein had $2700 in his campaign account as of June 30,2012
David Waldram held a kickoff event at his home a few weeks ago, complete with bounce house for the kids. Waldram had a nice turnout for his inaugural event with folks stopping by for hot dogs and lemonade. David spoke about his idea of service of as councilman, promising true fiscal responsibility and civility on the dais. He is also an outspoken opponent of the TUSD lawsuits and has publicly stated he will do all he can to settle the issues. As TUSD School Board President, Jonathan Ablelove appears to be a supporter, I would say that will be doable, should David win a seat. David recently told me that his website is now fully functional. You can see Waldram and his platform here. Waldram had less than a thousand dollars in his campaign account as of June 30, 2012.
Last week, Tracy Worley-Hagen held a joint fundraiser with David Waldram at the Loveland Residence and they confirmed they will run as a “team” for two of the three open seats. Attending the fundraiser was school board president Jonathan Ablelove and Tustin City Councilmember Beckie Gomez. The mixer allowed the two to discuss their concerns about the current state of the city and its finances.
Tracy is a former mayor and councilmember of Tustin, holding office from 1994-2006. She was elected Mayor and Mayor pro tem by her peers 4 times during her tenure. During that time, she also served on the boards of OCFA, the Transportation Corridor Agency and the Sanitation District. She is also active in the community as a member of the Assistance League, The AAUW and the Tustin Ranch Homeowners Association III President.She is also active with the schools and, like Waldram, is appalled at the city’s poor relationship with the school district that has allowed millions of dollars to be wasted over a pig fight. Several school board members have endorsed her candidacy.
Tracy’s website shows an extensive list of endorsements from all facets of our community. Her website, written more in a blog fashion (I like), has her campaign issues and her background as well. Worley-Hagen had just over $13,000 during the latest reporting period.
David Waldram and Tracy Worley-Hagen will be holding another fundraiser at the Hewes House on September 14, 2012 from 5-7:30 pm.
Chuck Puckett is another retread from the Tustin City Council. He was Mayor in 1991 and, until recently, was chair of the planning commission.
Puckett is a long time Amante crony and appears to be interested in keeping a business friendly climate as a priority. He also takes a more moderate view of the TUSD lawsuits saying that he will “strive to obtain a better relationship” with the school district. He does not give any indication that he would work to resolve the lawsuits. Like Allan Bernstein, Chuck also held a fundraiser at the Wilcox Manor. Don’t these conservatives just love Old Town?
I met Chuck at a recent event at the Hewes House where he spent a few minutes telling me I had him all wrong. He has promised me an interview and we’ll publish that down the road. Chuck’s website could use some updating in some areas and is a bit difficult to navigate. But, he has everything up there to give you the big picture. I would look at his endorsement page which, aside from the usual Republican suspects, includes the Marconi Automotive Museum. Now, didn’t Chuck vote on a few things for them as Planning Commissioner? Oh, and lookie, there’s Steve and Pam Godderham, too. In the latest reporting cycle, Chuck reported just under $4,000 in the bank.
The final candidate for Mayor, uh, I mean, city council, is none other than John Nielsen. Right after being elected mayor for this year, John foretold his re-election as he said he would be mayor again next year. Well, maybe. He has a few hurdles to jump. For example, his website is woefully out of date. He boasts a slew of endorsements, many from businesses and conservative Republican associations, but the page has not been updated since 2010. His positions have also not been updated, which is why he apparently has not said anything about the lawsuits. He did, however, discuss them with me in an interview earlier this year. At that time, he defended everything the city council had done so far in regard to the school district.
John may have too many irons in the fire, including a divorce he filed for in April of this year. Yet, he has had photo ops with Erin Nielsen, his wife, since then. It’s interesting to note that no paperwork beyond the initial filing has been completed. He may have decided to wait until after the election to make it known or (we hope) Erin and he have reconciled.
In any case, John has plenty of cash, which may explain why he has not had a fundraiser yet. In his most recent filing, he reported having over $20,000 to ensure his re-election to the city council. It also shows heavy funding from businesses throughout Tustin and Orange County. Assuming voters are willing to overlook his family issues, he shouldn’t have any trouble defending his spot on the council.
So, that’s the latest snapshot of our five candidates for Tustin City Council. As things progress, we will keep you updated. By the way, don’t look for campaign filings on the city’s transparency page of their website. They have not been posted even though everyone turned theirs in by August 1st. Go figure.
We got word yesterday that Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein have filed statements of intent to run for Tustin City Council.We also know that David Waldram will probably run as he has filed campaign statements for a 2012 run for City Council.
We don’t know much about Bernstein, yet, but hear he lives in Jerry’s neighborhood. He has also been associated with Amante in fundraising efforts. If it is who we are thinking about, he is the principle in a company called Ethnicitee Apparel Co. His wife also runs a daycare that recently requested an exemption for the number of children housed there.
Chuck Puckett is a city council retread and former mayor of our town. He chairs the board of the Tustin Community Foundation (who’s executive director is Mayor John Nielsen’s wife) and the City Planning Commission, although he will eventually have to step down from that post to run for city council.
Chuck was mayor in 1991 and later was allegedly ousted by Tracey Worley over a scandal involving lunch at a lingerie show charged to a city credit card. Sounds pretty racy to us. We will have to see if the voters have a long memory or are willing to forgive and forget.
With more than one seat open on the council, I expect to see a pretty good cross-section of Tustinites running this year along with plenty of fireworks to keep us entertained. We will keep you posted as the filings come in. Actual nomination papers will be filed July 16 to August 10, 2012.