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Businessmen accused of laundering money to Villaraigosa's campaign

March 4, 2009 |  3:00 pm

Antonio Two Florida businessmen who allegedly hoped to win lucrative concession contracts from Los Angeles International Airport were charged Wednesday with conspiring to launder more than $25,000 in political donations to Antonio Villaraigosa’s 2005 mayoral campaign, authorities said.

Los Angeles County prosecutors alleged in court documents that Sean Anderson and Richard W. Manhire -- executives at Miami-based Travel Traders -- donated the money in the names of employees and associates between September 2004 and April 2005.

City Hall records show that the first of the tainted donations were made a day after Villaraigosa had dinner with Anderson. Villaraigosa, who campaigned on a pledge to restore trust in city government, has insisted that the two men never discussed airport concessions.

Prosecutors said Villaraigosa cooperated with their investigation and noted that his campaign reported the donations as the law required. Villaraigosa later returned the contributions after news reports that raised questions about the money.

Anderson, 44, and Manhire, 39, told employees they wanted to raise campaign cash for Villaraigosa in order to obtain airport concession contracts, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said. The executives allegedly had the company’s treasurer collect $1,000 each from employees, who were reimbursed with cash from the company’s accounts, spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

She said $45,000 was delivered to Villaraigosa’s campaign from the men, of which $39,000 was allegedly laundered contributions.

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: Los Angeles Times