Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s former volunteer treasurer on Tuesday became the latest convicted criminal tied to the veteran Costa Mesa Republican lawmaker.
Who else is there? Glad you asked.
The Orange County GOP activist and Rohrabacher campaign manager helped recruit and place on the ballot a decoy candidate to split the Democratic vote and ensure the election of Scott Baugh, then a Rohrabacher protege, to the California Assembly in 1995. Charged with conspiracy and fraudulently filing and making nomination papers, Carmony would see her first trial end in a hung jury, with two jurors holding out for acquittal. Rather than face a retrial, she pleaded guilty in December 1997, and the two felonies were immediately knocked down to misdemeanors. She was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and had to pay a $2,800 fine. She also agreed not to participate in any political campaigning unless it was for Rohrabacher, who by then was her husband. Carmony went on to have triplets.
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to influence peddling charges that rocked Capitol Hill, and he was ultimately sentenced to six years in federal prison (although he only served 43 months). Naturally, his longtime friend Rohrabacher rallied to Abramoff’s defense. “They’re portraying Jack as a monster,” Rohrabacher complained to the Associated Press. “I see him more as a good person who’s done bad things and has to be punished for doing bad things.” Part of Abramoff’s deal with prosecutors had him outing as many as 20 Members of Congress and their aides who he had paid bribes. Alas, Dana—who was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan when he first met the lobbyist, who was then chairman of College Republicans—was not one of them. Abramoff would later pen a tell-all admitting he had been a bad person who did bad things.
After five years of viciously attacking his accusers and claiming OC Weekly was persecuting the self-described Christian conservative, Orange County Republican activist and close Washington, D.C., aide to Rohrabacher Jeffrey Ray Nielsen pleaded guilty in March 2008 of having targeted seventh, eighth and ninth grade middle school boys for his sexual gratification. The son of former Fountain Valley Mayor Ben Nielsen, former intern for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and friend of then-Sheriff Mike Carona and county GOP Chairman Scott Baugh had also been charged with possession of a huge cache of man-boy and boy-boy sex pornography. However, a bonehead mistake by prosecutors allowed that count to expire. A judge sentenced Jeff Nielsen to 36 months in prison. He served 20 months. To find him now, check California’s registered sex offender database, which he will appear on for life.
When the Weekly was pretty much the lone ranger pointing out how dirty Mike Carona was through his first term as Orange County sheriff, Rohrabacher’s impassioned defense was credited with sealing Carona’s 2006 reelection endorsement from the Orange County Republican Party, the Republican Orange County Board of Supervisors and the Republican Orange County district attorney (T-Rack). After Carona pleaded guilty to felony witness tampering in 2013—which would lead to a federal prison stint in Colorado—Rohrabacher reasoned in the press that politicians “don’t have the capacity to investigate what other people are doing in their political jobs” and that they should not assume those under attack are guilty. However, Rohrabacher did concede he would never support Carona again, not because of the mountain of corruption evidence or the way he tried to subvert justice once he was caught. Nope, it was extra-martial affairs. Bad, bad sheriff!
In 2005, it was disclosed that Joseph M. Medawar paid Rohrabacher $23,000 for a 30-year-old screenplay. At issue was whether that was actually payback for the congressman introducing the movie producer to federal officials who could help with production of a television series on the Department of Homeland Security. Medawar was arrested on Sept. 23, 2005, by FBI and IRS agents for running a scam where $5.5 million raised from investors for the TV show was actually spent on personal expenses, including a $40,000-a-month Beverly Hills mansion. In 2006, Rohrabacher returned the $23k and in May of that same year two other significant things happened. The Weekly broke the news that then-OC Sheriff and POD (Pal of Dana) Mike Carona had allowed Medawar to film the county’s top secret anti-terrorism training procedures three years earlier and that the footage as well as endorsements from the sheriff and the congressmen helped woo potential investors. Also that same month, Lebanon-born Medawar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and income tax evasion. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $2.6 million in restitution to the defrauded investors and to perform 3,000 hours of community service. The jail sentence was later reduced to probation, but in 2011 a judge reinstated it to 45 months behind bars due to a probation violation.
Dan Brandon Bilzerian is a 36-year-old trust fund baby nicknamed “Blitz” and “Instgram King” because of his 5.7 million followers. Many go to his page to see photos of the Navy SEAL washout posing with high-powered weapons. One such photo shows him and Rohrabacher holding what appear to be automatic rifles. Some sharp-eyed Reddit viewers claim the photo also shows lines of cocaine on Bilzerian’s desk (although, to be fair, others believe those are reflections). The son of Paul Bilzerian, a corporate takeover specialist convicted in the 1980s of violating securities and tax laws, found himself in legal hot water on Dec. 9, 2014, when he was arrested at LAX on a fugitive warrant out of Nevada claiming he had been in possession of bomb-making materials. At a Clark County, Nevada, courthouse in February 2015, Bilzerian pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of “negligently failing to extinguish a fire in the open” and was fined $17,231.50. Four months later, he announced his intention to run for president, although he backed out that December to support Donald Trump, who is poised to appoint him Ambassador of Awesome.
The longtime Orange County Republican activist, who wrote columns in three Costa Mesa/Newport Beach area newspapers, the Orange County Register and popped up regularly in State Sen. John Moorlach’s “Moorlach Update” announcements, pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling more than $300,000 from Rohrabacher’s re-election campaign and the chain of luxury car washes that formerly employed Wu. In May 2015, the Committee to Re-elect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher campaign manager attempted to pay a bill with the committee’s debit card but it was refused. The campaign manager contacted Bank of America to discover that $170,000 was missing from the account. An investigation discovered Wu stole more than $238,000 in committee funds, using some of the money to repay restitution he owed to his former employer, Russell Fischer Inc. Wu had become RFI’s controller in 2008 and then had his salary reduced in 2012 when he cut his hours to become an independent contractor while managing his own accounting business. But between June 2012 and September 2013, he received both full-time and contractor checks, soaking the company for more than $71,000. As part of a plea deal, the 46-year-old Newport Beach resident copped to three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement, 21 felony counts of forgery, with sentencing enhancement allegations for theft exceeding $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, and property loss over $200,000. He faces up to four years and four months in state prison at sentencing scheduled for March 13.