The Investigation 

How a vengeful ex-lover set the FBI on Don Perata.

Page 3 of 4

Several sources say Wishom suspected that Hu had more than a professional relationship with Perata. He even speculated to friends and acquaintances that Hu dumped him on Perata's orders. One source recalled Wishom complaining, "Don Perata told her she had to let me loose because I was bad for business."

Some time after the breakup, Wishom called City Hall gadfly Sanjiv Handa looking for gossip on Hu. First, however, he wanted Handa -- who publishes a newsletter read by Oakland political insiders -- to assure him that he was on a secure phone line. Wishom then told Handa he had incriminating information on Hu. "He said he was fighting for what was due him," Handa recalls, "and if he didn't get it, he'd name names."

Wishom wanted money. According to Handa, Wishom had done some research on palimony cases and figured that Hu owed him a financial settlement. Court records make passing reference to a settlement, but don't spell out any details. At least three sources close to Wishom say he had been negotiating with Hu to get a six-figure financial settlement. Those sources say that in return she wanted Wishom to agree to stop spreading allegations about her business activities. And two sources said he told them he was hoping Perata would nab a technology contract for him in the state capital.

Exactly what Wishom intended to reveal about Hu is unclear. He told several people he had bank statements, and one source who saw them said Wishom claimed they showed that Hu made much more money from lobbying than she had reported. Wishom also claimed he had hired a private investigator.

In early September, Hu petitioned in Alameda County Superior Court for a restraining order against Wishom. She painted him as a jealous and unstable man who couldn't get over their breakup and had made threats on her life (which he denied), although he never actually struck her. Hu's court filing said neighbors had spotted Wishom driving by her house several times a week, and that he pestered her with unwanted phone calls. A male acquaintance also submitted a statement accusing Wishom of accosting him in an Albertsons parking lot, calling him a "motherfucker" and threatening to kill him.

Ensuing correspondence between Hu's and Wishom's attorneys indicates that Wishom threatened to publicly reveal his knowledge of an FBI investigation unless Hu would agree to a mutual restraining order. Hu's attorney Sally Elkington refused to budge, telling Wishom's attorney in a September 22, 2003 letter, "Ms. Hu is no longer willing to accept Mr. Wishom's bullying through his threats to 'expose' false information about her. My client is confident regarding her business activities. She has no reason to believe that the FBI is investigating her and she is not taking or giving any 'kickbacks.'" A few days later, Wishom made good on his threat and submitted a written declaration to the court in which he said the FBI was investigating Hu's "lobbying activities, and her activities with politicians." He also denied making any threats. In fact, Wishom claimed in court that he was the one who had been threatened in an anonymous phone call from a man who warned, "Keep your mouth shut or you will find yourself floating in the bay."

On September 26, Hu, Wishom, and their attorneys appeared in Judge Julie Conger's court and worked out a compromise. Hu got her restraining order, but Wishom could arrange through Hu's assistant to use their vacation home in Wilseyville or to pick up the Dalmatians for which they shared custody.

But those concessions turned out not to matter. Wishom died a week later.

Scores of friends and family members packed St. Benedict's Parish in East Oakland to mourn Wishom's sudden passing. The 62-year-old had gone into Summit Medical Center in Oakland for surgery on one of his legs, which had nerve damage caused by his diabetes. He died shortly thereafter of complications from the surgery and was cremated quickly.

Though Wishom had been ill and lost a lot of weight in the prior months, his death came as a shock to many of his friends and family members. Several of them said he appeared to be on the mend. "I saw him the day before, and he seemed to be in pretty good spirits," said his brother, Lonald Wishom. "He talked about how he was going to get out of the hospital and come play with my kids."

Father James V. Matthews, who had presided over Wishom's second wedding, gave the eulogy. "He was a serious, kind-hearted guy," he recalled later. "That was the Frank I knew." Supervisor Nate Miley and Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid both said a few parting words about their old friend. De La Fuente and Perata also showed up, as did Hu. In fact, Father Matthews says Hu worked with Wishom's relatives to plan the somber occasion. One mourner remembers Hu all red-faced and teary at the funeral. And why not? Despite their nasty breakup, they'd spent twenty years together.

Early last month, federal authorities executed a search warrant at Hu's office, attorney Doron Weinberg confirmed. A federal grand jury also has been convened, and the US attorney has sent subpoenas to an unknown number of businesses and agencies to turn over any correspondence and payments made to Perata, Perata's relatives, and his business associates, including Hu. On November 8, the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency received a 33-page subpoena that identified 26 checks made to Hu from June 6, 2001 to December 1, 2003. The Oakland Tribune reported that the transit agency hired Hu to do political groundwork in the lead-up to a seismic bond measure going on the ballot. Several close Perata associates were involved with BART's recent earthquake bond measures. Voters approved the more recent one, Measure AA, last month.


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