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Developer accused of orchestrating political scheme in Riverside County

December 6, 2010 |  2:42 pm

A Florida developer connected to an alleged political corruption scandal that led to the indictment and recall of four San Jacinto City Council members  was accused Monday of orchestrating another political scheme in Riverside County.

A Riverside County grand jury indicted Stephen Russell Holgate, 64, on 10 counts of illicitly funneling campaign contributions to Republican John Benoit’s 2008 campaign for the state Senate.

Benoit, who won the election and later resigned for a successful bid for Riverside County supervisor, was not implicated.

Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco announced the indictment Monday, accusing Hodges of laundering campaign contributions to Benoit’s campaign and misleading voters.

Last year, Holgate was indicted on suspicion of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Jacinto Councilman Jim Ayers' campaign for state Assembly. In many cases, Holgate had other people make the contributions and then later provided reimbursements, allowing him to skirt contribution limits, Pacheco alleged.

Ayers also was indicted, as were San Jacinto Mayor Dale Stubblefield; Vice Mayor John Mansperger; City Councilman James Potts; and Ayers’ wife, Nancy. The council members were booted from office in November during a recall election.

During the alleged scheme, development projects promoted by Holgate continually won approval in San Jacinto.  Holgate also was accused of funding a new local Chamber of Commerce chapter, headed by Ayers' wife.

In the case involving the Benoit campaign, Holgate was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to make campaign contributions under a false name, four misdemeanor counts of making contributions under false names, four misdemeanor counts of having another person make contributions on his behalf and one misdemeanor count of exceeding campaign contribution limits.

If convicted of the felony count, he could face up to three years in state prison.

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-- Phi Willon in Riverside County

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