11:32 PM PST on Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Press-Enterprise

Six more people linked to a San Jacinto corruption probe were charged Tuesday for their alleged roles in funneling money into election coffers at the center of a lengthy Riverside County criminal grand jury indictment.

All are relatives of elected officials charged last month in the 155-count indictment.

Shanda Lynn Mansperger, 34, of San Jacinto; Christopher Ray Mason, 25, of San Jacinto; Marcia Lynn Mathews, 43, of Hemet; Kirk William Mathews, 50, of Hemet; Carol Ann Gehrum, 68, of San Jacinto; and John Richard Gehrum, 40, of Hemet, all appeared Tuesday in Riverside County Superior Court.

“These are not the masterminds,” District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Tuesday in a phone interview. “These are the folks who helped the masterminds.”

Pacheco said the six were named in a complaint separate from the indictment because their claims in front of the grand jury had to be investigated before the charges were filed.

Prosecutors said each of the new defendants gave political contributions to Jim Ayres’ 2006 state Assembly bid, although the money came in 18 months after he had lost the primary.

Each defendant was illegally reimbursed for those contributions, prosecutors believe. They said forensic accounting showed money of equal amounts was deposited in bank accounts shortly before or after they made the donation.

When they were asked about the donations during grand jury hearings earlier this year, they lied about whether they were reimbursed and the possible true sources of the funds, a complaint filed Tuesday charges.

Shanda Lynn Mansperger is indicted San Jacinto Councilman John Mansperger’s wife; Mason is Mansperger’s nephew, Marcia Lynn Mathews is Mansperger’s sister and Kirk William Mathews is her husband.

John Richard Gehrum is indicted San Jacinto Unified School District board member Nancy Ayres’ brother and Carol Ann Gehrum is Ayres’ mother. They are the brother-in-law and mother-in-law, respectively, of indicted San Jacinto Councilman Jim Ayres.

Their arraignments were pushed to Jan. 15, the same day others in the case have a court hearing scheduled. Felony charges included perjury and two counts of conspiracy to make campaign contributions.

Two misdemeanor charges were also filed for making campaign contributions under a false name.

During their appearance before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Donner, all six defendants were briefly handcuffed because there was an outstanding warrant for them on the complaint, Donner explained.

The six sat in a row, hands behind their backs, as the proceeding began.

They were out of the cuffs within minutes. The first was Shanda Mansperger, who recently had a baby.

All were released after posting bond for $5,000. All declined to comment as they left the court.

Each defendant faces a maximum of four years, eight months in prison if convicted on all charges.

Prosecutors allege the contributions skirted campaign law, and some of the people likely received the money for their contributions from land developers charged in the indictment, notably Stephen Holgate.

Those indicted Tuesday were responsible for certifying they made the donations. If they did so knowing the money came from another source, they are violating campaign law by helping someone give more money than the rules allow.

All testified before the criminal grand jury that indicted the elected officials and developers. Over 25 days, prosecutors questioned 129 witnesses about the corruption case.

Fraud Denied

Those indicted Tuesday denied funneling cash from illicit sources to Ayres’ campaign. For example, John Gehrum said the money he donated via check from an account he shared with his mother likely came from casino winnings.

John Gehrum gave the money to his brother-in-law’s campaign at the behest of his mother, he testified.

Grand jury testimony indicated that Gehrum donated a total of $3,300 to Ayres’ assembly campaign; the complaint filed Tuesday focuses on $2,300 of that amount.

John Gehrum cited the source of his donation was his cash on hand for gambling which he said he kept in an envelope under his pillow. Gehrum insisted that was the source for the money and denied he was reimbursed.

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