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Following a nasty breakup, Frank Wishom, former boyfriend of Oakland powerhouse lobbyist Lily Hu, contacts the FBI and accuses Hu of accepting kickbacks from her clients. Hu is a former staffer of state Senate boss Don Perata who maintained a close relationship with the senator. Her clients include some of Perata's close friends and major campaign donors.
The FBI searches Hu's home in Oakland's upscale Crocker Highlands neighborhood. Sources said the FBI was also looking for evidence as to whether Perata ever received kickbacks via Hu. ... The US Attorney's Office empanels a grand jury with Perata as the main target of the probe.
Federal subpoenas are served on several private firms associated with Hu and/or Perata, including some of his biggest campaign contributors. BART also receives a federal subpoena demanding all documents and payment records for Perata and Hu; companies owned by Perata's son Nick and daughter Rebecca Perata-Rosati; consultant Sandra Polka; and Timothy Staples, Perata's college roommate and business partner. Perata and the others named in the subpoenas deny any wrongdoing. The Express breaks the story of the investigation.
December 15, 2004
The FBI searches the homes of Perata and his son Nick. Federal agents, including some from the IRS, carry away boxes of documents and two computers from the younger Perata's house. Oakland political insiders have quietly speculated for years as to whether Don Perata may have laundered campaign contributions through his son. Nick Perata and his companies, Exit Strategies and NRP Productions, have raked in nearly $1 million since 1998 for ill-defined consulting work on his father's campaigns and committees associated with him.
The grand jury subpoenas Caltrans, demanding documents related to Perata, Polka, and Ezra Rapport, a longtime Perata ally and former aide. The Oakland Tribune cites sources who believed the feds were investigating a 2003 Perata transportation bill that was approved by voters the following year, authorizing a $1 toll increase on Bay Area bridges. Both Polka, a former aide to former state Senator John Burton, and Rapport, a former Oakland deputy city manager, worked on the bridge toll measure.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "The FBI has expanded its investigation of state Senate leader Don Perata in recent weeks, interviewing current and former members of his staff as well as lawyers and lobbyists for Bay Area card clubs that hired Perata's business partner [Timothy Staples] at the senator's suggestion."
The Sacramento Bee reports that the FBI has demanded "copies of all e-mails sent by the Oakland Democrat and eight legislative staffers during his first six years in the upper house."
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