Ex-Colma councilman faces federal charges 

A second former Colma Town Council member has been charged with failing to report a plane ticket received as a gift.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged former Councilman Ronald Maldonado, 49, with felony honest services mail fraud, alleging that he failed to report a plane ticket to the Philippines bought for him in May 2000 by a travel agent.

The charge of mail fraud — incurred because Maldonado’s forms declaring gifts and income were filed by mail — carries a potential sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, according to court documents.

Maldonado, elected in 2000, is the second former council member charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to report gifts as required by law. Former Mayor Phil Lum Jr., a 20-year member of the Colma Town Council, lost a bid for re-election last November after he was charged in October with failing to declare gifts from a cardroom owner.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office moved Thursday to join Maldonado and Lum’s cases together, a move that could have some benefits, such as being able to include Maldonado’s testimony in Lum’s case, Lum’s attorney, George Walker, said. Walker has 10 days to respond to the prosecution’s motion.

"On the other hand, there may be (information) I’m unaware of that would paint (Maldonado) and perhaps lapses over into my individual," Walker said.

He wouldn’t want Lum to be "guilty by association," he added.

Maldonado’s lawyer, Jodi Linker, did not return calls for comment by press time. Maldonado will be back in court Feb. 28.

Lum has maintained his innocence against the allegation that he accepted and then failed to declare first-class and coach plane tickets to the Philippines in 1999, 2000 and 2001 as gifts from Lucky Chances owner Rene Medina. Lum also allegedly voted on matters benefiting the card room. He declined to comment on his or Maldonado’s case Thursday.

Medina was arrested separately in March with his niece and nephew on charges of filing false federal income tax returns for Lucky Chances and avoiding personal income taxes.

Colma generally receives more than $3 million per year in revenue from Lucky Chances, a number expected to increase in the coming months as Internet gamblers take their games into the casinos and unlimited wagering takes effect.

Colma City Manager Diane McGrath said she did not worry about Lucky Chances’s influence on the council members or the town any more than she did other businesses, calling it "another business in town."

dsmith@examiner.com

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