Politics and Gambling: a Perfect Match

02 Mar 2013 | 09:14 Author: Seth Shafer

Yet another high-profile politician has been caught with their hands in the cookie jar when it comes to supporting their gambling lifestyle.

Former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor made headlines lately when it was revealed that she stole millions from a trust fund established by her late husband to support her video poker habit and now another California politician is in similar hot water.

Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. saw his political career come crashing down last week when he was charged with multiple felonies including perjury and misappropriation of public funds related to gambling away more than $100,000 in political and public funds over the last five years.

He quickly agreed to plead guilty to the charges and immediately resigned his post, chalking up his actions to depression and gambling addiction. Shirakawa had previously accused his critics of attacking him because he was overweight and an Oakland Raiders fan when questions began to arise about missing funds and potential misconduct.

Shirakawa's plea agreement will see him cop to five felonies, seven misdemeanors and ten violations of the state's Political Reform Act; he will be barred from ever holding public office in California again and will face more than $70,000 in fines and the possibility of "substantial jail time," according to the District Attorney's Office.

His spending spree over five years saw him move well over $100,000 into personal accounts he controlled that he used for gambling money in casinos in California and Nevada; he also racked up huge bills using his county credit card at Cache Creek, Thunder Valley and Harrah's Reno casinos, including paying for luxury vehicle rentals, golfing trips, and meals.

Shirakawa was able to get away with his hijinks largely due to cursory audits and a lack of checks and balances; he also lied about having a campaign treasurer during two campaigns for public office and falsfied documents and reports to create fake paper trails designed to hide the amount of money that he was siphoning off for personal use.

Shirakawa released a statement that included the following: "For years, I have suffered from depression and a gambling addiction. Unfortunately, my gambling addiction went untreated for too long, which led to bad decisions and actions that I deeply regret."

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