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Former California VA Official Pleads Not Guilty To Bid-Rigging, Bribery

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A former state official and a construction company owner pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco Monday to charges in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme for government construction projects.

Former California Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Deputy Secretary Eric Worthen, 45, of Pleasant Hill, and Empire Engineering and Construction Inc. President Clifton Burch, 49, of San Lorenzo, were among eight people indicted on April 6.

The bid-rigging probe grew out of a 2014 case in which Chinatown tong leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow was convicted of murder and racketeering and former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, and fundraiser Keith Jackson pleaded guilty to a corruption charge.

Jackson unknowingly introduced an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman to three defendants in the new case, including Worthen and his business consulting partner, Taj Reid, according to prosecutors.

Worthen pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero to one count of conspiring to receive a bribe and two counts of receiving bribes for aiding the supposed businessman in gaining contracts to build veterans'
facilities in Southern California.

Burch pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiring to defraud the government and making a false statement to investigators in connection with a U.S. Department of Energy contract for renovation of a building at the
Lawrence Berkeley National Guard.

The alleged fraud conspiracy involved a plot to submit a phony high bid to help the supposed businessman gain the contract, according to the grand jury indictment in the case.

A third defendant, Butler Enterprise Group President Derf Butler, 53, of Vallejo, appeared before Spero Monday but delayed entering a plea until his lawyer is identified at another hearing Wednesday.

Spero allowed all three defendants to remain free on $50,000 personal bonds while awaiting trial.

He instructed them to return to court on April 25 for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the trial judge in the case.

Breyer was the judge in the Yee and Chow case. He agreed last week to prosecutors' request that he take on the new case for purposes of judicial efficiency.

Reid, the son of Oakland City Council Member Larry Reid, is due to be arraigned before Spero Tuesday along with B Side Inc. President Anton Kalafati.

Oakland-based Turner Group Construction leaders Len Turner and Lance Turner and Townsend Management Inc. Vice President Peter McKean will appear before a different magistrate on April 25.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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