Former Colma Town Council member Philip Lum Jr. pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to two public corruption charges. The charges stemmed from allegations that he accepted gifts from Lucky Chances Casino while voting on issues that would benfit the casino.
The federal indictment alleged that from 1999-2002, Lum took several trips to the Philippines with plane tickets purchased by Lucky Chances owner Rene Medina, and failed to report such gifts to the Fair Political Practices Commission in his annual filing.
Lum and the full council voted on and approved a use permit and a card room application in June 2000 to continue running the casino, and then approved an ordinance allowing casino employees to gamble at Lucky Chances in October 2002.
By failing to report the tickets as gifts, Lum committed mail fraud and deprived his constituents of "their right to honest services as an elected representative," according to a release from U.S. Attorney Scott Schools’ office.
A single charge of mail fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine but Lum, who maintained his innocence since the Oct. 3 indictment, is facing 18 to 24 months, said his attorney, George Walker. He said the charges did not include any bribery allegations but pertained strictly to a failure to report a conflict of interest on Lum’s part.
"There’s no allegation of bribery. It really is a technical violation," Walker said. "It’s serious because it does involve an appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest."
When he was contacted Friday, Lum refused to comment. He is due to be sentenced July 12 in San Francisco.
Lum’s 20-year stint on the council and five terms as mayor was second only to Raymond Ottoboni’s 33 years on the council serving from 1950 to 1983. Lum lost re-election in November 2006 by only 10 votes despite being indicted a month before Election Day.
"I think this is very unusual and really just an aberration," City Manager Diane McGrath said of the situation, adding that Lum was a good council member and represented residents well.
In February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office similarly charged former Councilman Ronald Maldonado on felony honest services and mail fraud alleging that he failed to report a plane ticket to the Philippines.
Medina was arrested in March 2006 with his niece and nephew on charges of filing false federal income tax returns for Lucky Chances and avoiding personal income taxes, bilking the government out of nearly $1 million.