Former supervisor pleads guilty, admits won $400,000 gambling with campaign money


SAN JOSE (Bay City News Service) — Former Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa pleaded guilty March 18 to a dozen criminal charges for filing false campaign and expense reports and revealed to prosecutors he won $400,000 gambling with the campaign donations.

Shirakawa, appearing in Superior Court dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, replied “Guilty, your honor” to each of the five felony and seven misdemeanor charges against him read aloud by Judge Philip Pennypacker.

Pennypacker told the defendant to report to the county probation department within two days for an evaluation and then set a hearing date of April 30 to receive Shirakawa’s probation report.

Shirakawa’s sentencing hearing would then be scheduled and prosecutors will argue for a term of one year in the county jail, Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu-Towery said.

Pennypacker, who noted that Shirakawa’s plea agreement with prosecutors states he would not be sent to state prison, told him he could be sentenced to years of supervised probation and sent to jail for up to one year if he violated probation.

Shirakawa, 51, resigned from office March 1 as part of a deal with the district attorney’s office to plead guilty to four felony counts of perjury, one count of felony misuse of public funds and seven misdemeanors for filing inaccurate campaign and government finance reports.

Elected to his District 2 seat in 2008, Shirakawa ran unopposed last year and won a second term last November. His plea arrangement requires Shirakawa to make restitution related to his crimes, including repaying the county Department of Revenue $12,000 and paying $50,000 in fines to the state Fair Political Practices Commission for 10 campaign report violations, Sinunu-Towery said.

Prosecutors are still investigating the sources of funds Shirakawa deposited into a private “Slush Fund” bank account associated with donations to his supervisor campaign from 2010 to 2012, Sinunu-Towery said.

Shirakawa apparently withdrew money from campaign donors to gamble with it at casinos and turned over to prosecutors IRS tax records detailing the large amounts he won gambling, Sinunu-Towery said.

“Today they gave me some documents that proved he won about $400,000 gambling, so we’re going to check that out and get back to you on that,” she told reporters outside the courthouse.

During Shirakawa’s court hearing, Sinunu-Towery revealed that Shirakawa had surrendered four firearms worth about $1,000 as part of a bankruptcy filing by the former supervisor.

After his hearing, Shirakawa followed his attorney John Williams outside the courthouse, looked down at his smartphone and said nothing to reporters before entering an SUV that sped away down Hedding Street.

Shirakawa, a former San Jose city councilman, has apologized and blamed his behavior on untreated gambling addiction and depression problems for which he said he is seeking medical treatment. The perjury charges stem from his filing of false reports about five campaign bank accounts starting in 2002 when he was elected to the board of trustees of the East Side Union School District.

An investigator for the district attorney’s office reported this month that Shirakawa had shifted more than $130,000 out of campaign and public government accounts starting in 2008.

The plea agreement also bars him for life from running for public office in California.

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