Wednesday, July 19, 2017

6B: more on Saddleback's "bookie trustee"


     IN THIS POST: the second half of my report on the curious Mr. Alyn Brannon, founding SOCCCD trustee—and BOOKIE. 
     This part follows the story after his surrender for jail in 1974. —RB




Mr. Brannon, long ago
The Happy Bookmaker
     As it turns out, Alyn Brannon, one of our district’s original board trustees (1967-1974), pursued his career as bookie kingpin long after his arrest and sentencing in 1972-1974. (He resigned from the board in January of 1974, a month after pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain.)
     Evidently, he's the incorrigible type.
     I describe all of that below.
     Immediately below, however, I provide the most interesting of the newspaper stories about Brannon’s sometimes colorful bookmakery. ("The Case of the Unfriendly Bettors," LA Times, April 1981. Check it out, it's good!)
     Tearful public apologies notwithstanding, Brannon was serious about his bookie gig. His various operations are often described as the most significant ("top operator") in OC. Brannon is usually described as the “kingpin” of a sophisticated illegal enterprise, involving secret apartments in Tustin, secret offices in Laguna Hills, dark tables at restaurants, flamboyant underlings with sleek, silver Porsches.
     But why? According to one article, Brannon explained that he  risked his good name, family, etc.—because of the "excitement."
     His saga is sometimes funny. At one point, while awaiting a hearing regarding the appeal of a judge's ruling, Brannon is arrested on a new charge. One of his "bookmaking agents," a court bailiff, calls on the phone to arrange a bet. The conversation is recorded by cops. Brannon is thrown back into prison.
     Reading about Brannon’s post-trustee career was sometimes sobering. I learned that, among Brannon’s colleagues in his 1979 arrest was his son, Donald. (His other son, Barry, would appear to have taken that other, higher road; he's had a successful career as an Air Force pilot.) Son Donald, however, died in a plane crash in Lake Tahoe in 1994. (In the mid-90s, Brannon's bookie operation had an office in Lake Tahoe.)
     Sheesh.
     Brannon has been a parole violator and a repeat offender. He was arrested again for bookmaking—the "biggest bookmaking operation" yet uncovered in OC—in 1997, twenty-five years after his first arrest, when he was President of the Saddleback board and a young Republican star.
     SOCCCD. We're special, ain't we?
     In 2008, he was convicted of failing to pay his taxes. He was confined to his home and was made to pay $30,000 in restitution. He didn't like that much.
     I believe he's still alive, in his mid-80s, and living in OC. Or maybe Arizona. Or Texas.

(Click on graphics to make them larger.)



Brannon’s post-trustee career: "excitement"

     Note: Alyn Brannon resigned from the Saddleback Community College District board of trustees in January of 1974. He had been arrested and charged for bookmaking and extortion in September of 1972. He was eventually convicted, fifteen months later, on one count of bookmaking in December 1973 thanks to a generous plea bargain.

1974
     • Brannon's first arrest didn't reach sentencing until December of 1973. According to the Times (“Former College Trustee gets 90 days in jail,” 4-9-74), “When Brannon appeared before [the judge], his attorney, John M. Downer, asked the court to consider that the bookmaking operation was among 'seven friends' and had no connection with organized crime.”

1979
     • According to the Times (“Police Break Up Bookmaking Ring—Four arrested,” 3-8-79), “A six-month police undercover investigation has broken up bookmaking operations that were reportedly grossing $185,000 a week in Santa Ana and Seal Beach.” The arrests were made by Garden Grove police. Three people were arrested, including Brannon’s son, Donald, of Tustin. (Another person in Scottsdale, AR, was sought by police.) “Investigators said the bookmaking operations were run out of the Rum-runner’s Inn in Seal Beach and Reuben’s restaurant on Tustin Ave., in Santa Ana….”

Mr. Brannon with shovel
1981
     • According to the Times (“Arraignment set for bookmaking suspects,” 3-4-81), “Two men suspected of being Orange County’s top bookmaking operators for professional football games and other sports will be arraigned in Superior Court March 16.”
     Alyn M. Brannon and Salvatore Charles Consalvo were “charged with 20 counts involving felony bookmaking and conspiracy.”
     The two were indicted “last week” by a grand jury following a six month investigation. Bookmaking equipment was found in an apartment in Tustin and an office in Laguna Hills.

     • LA Times, April 10, 1981: "The case of the unfriendly bettor "(See graphics) —This offers some delicious details concerning Brannon's operation.

     • According to the Times (“Court Asked to Oust DA in Bookie Case,” 4-29-81), “[T]wo men are accused of running a $50,000-a-week bookmaking and football card operation in several bars in the Mission Viejo area. “District Attorney’s investigators said they believe [Hyman] Wolenski and [John] Lombardi were bookmaking agents for Alyn M. Brannon of Santa Ana, who was indicted by the OC Grand Jury in February for bookmaking. At the time, Brannon, 50, was on parole from a previous bookmaking conviction….”

     • According to the Times (“Two enter guilty pleas to bookmaking charges,” 6-20-81), “Two men who authorities say ran the biggest sports gambling operation in OC have pleaded guilty in Santa Ana Municipal Court to one count each of bookmaking. Alyn M. Brannon, 50, of Santa Ana and Salvatore Consalvo, 56, of Mission Viejo will be free on their own recognizance until Friday, when they must appear in OC Superior court to reenter their pleas to felony charges.”
     Brannon is also pleading guilty to “violating probation from a previous bookmaking conviction.”

     • According to the Times (“Two men plead guilty in county bookmaking case,” 6-27-81), “Two men [viz., Brannon and Consalvo] who authorities say ran the biggest sports gambling operation in OC pleaded guilty…one count each of felony bookmaking.” “Law enforcement officials said Brannon, who had previously been convicted of bookmaking, was the kingpin of a ring that handled about $200,000 a week in sports bets.”

     • According to the Times (“Man gets 2-year prison term in bookmaking case,” 8-20-81), “Alyn M. Brannon, 50, a former president of the Saddleback College board of trustees, was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to one count of felony bookmaking. Orange County Superior Court Judge William Murray also gave Brannon a concurrent two-year term for a count of parole violation after an earlier bookmaking conviction.”

1982
     • “Bookie May Serve Just One-Sixth of Sentence,” LA Times, 1-21-82:
     Brannon receives a two-year sentence, but he later claims that his lawyer told him that, after his 120-day review (in prison), the judge would release him. But the judge regards Brannon as a hard case who has managed to avoid serious jail time and he means to make sure Brannon finally gets it. Brannon is released after 120 days (Vacaville on Dec 16, 1981) because of a death in the family, and the judge allows him to stay out of prison until the hearing—when Brannon learns that he’s heading back in to serve out the rest of his 2-year term. Lots of legal maneuvering follows, but it comes to nothing.
     While out, Brannon works at a Santa Ana hotel.
     “His attorney, William Stewart, is expected to argue that Brannon should be allowed to remain free. But the OC district attorney’s office is particularly interested in seeing that Brannon serves his full two-year sentence because of his lengthy history of involvement in gambling.”
     “If Brannon is released after just four months, [Deputy DA Rick] Toohey said, there is no reason to believe he won’t go back into the sports betting business.”
     “He has a history gambling activity that goes back almost a decade,” Toohey said. “This is not a man who should be free.”
     “According to court records, Brannon told a probation officer that he was willing to risk his good name in the community to get into sports bookmaking because of the ‘excitement’ involved.”

     • According to the Tustin News (“Commissioned,” 6-24-82), “Barry D. Brannon, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alyn M. Brannon of North Tustin, has been commissioned a second lieutenant through the Air Force ROTC program, and earned a bachelor’s degree at the U of Colorado, Boulder….”

     • According to the Times (“Bailiff was bookmaker, police say,” 6-24-1982), “A tip Newport Beach police received earlier this month has led them, officers said, to an unusual bookmaker – the bailiff in the courtroom of the presiding judge of Orange County’s Harbor Municipal Court.” … “And the bailiff in turn has reportedly helped set up the arrest of a former Saddleback Community College trustee, who was free pending an appeal relating to a bookmaking conviction, police said. After hearing a police tape recording of the undercover bet Wednesday, a judge ordered the former trustee back behind bars.”
     “Police identified the bailiff as Darrell Strobele, a deputy Orange County marshal for 17½ years….”
     Strobele didn’t take bets in court, but he did take them while at the courthouse in Newport Beach. There are indications that he occasionally used the judge’s chambers when the judge wasn’t there.
     “A bettor working with the police placed a bet with Strobele on June 14, making the case against him, [investigator Milt] Geiger said.”
     “At investigators’ request, Strobele agreed a week later to telephone Alyn Brannon, former community college trustee, convicted bookmaker and longtime friend of Strobele since the two men met as high school sports referees, Geiger said. Police tape-recorded the conversation as Strobele placed a bet, Geiger said.
     “The tape recording enabled the district attorney’s office Wednesday to have Brannon sent back to jail.”
     “Superior Court Judge Leonard McBride, who had allowed Brannon to remain free without bail while Brannon appealed McBride’s refusal of a new trial, was in no mood to offer Brannon a second chance.”
     Evidently Brannon’s attorney, Dennis LaBarbera listened to the tape during court and “had nothing to say.”
     “The judge was so angry I could have asked for a change of clothes for Brannon and he would have turned us down,” LaBarbera said later. “There really was no point in arguing this thing any further.”
     “Law enforcement officials have complained in the past that Brannon, who has a 10-year history of bookmaking arrests, has spent little time in jail.”

1984
     • According to Tustin News (“Silver Wings,” 1-19-84), second Lt. Barry D. Brannon has graduated from US Air Force pilot training and has received his silver wings.

1994
     • According to the Tustin News (“Donald Brannon,” 2-17-94), Alyn Brannon’s son, Donald Brannon, was killed Feb 13 just after takeoff from South Lake Tahoe Airport. (Alyn Brannon was known to have a part of his bookie operation in Lake Tahoe.)

1997
     • According to the Times (“Authorities Arrest 10 in Bookmaking Case,” 4-2-97)”
     Authorities announced Tuesday what they described as the biggest bookmaking operation uncovered by Orange County investigators and the arrests of 10 California and Nevada residents suspected of illegally taking in about $1 million per month.
. . .
     …[P]olice from Seal Beach, Anaheim and Newport Beach and the district attorney's office served 11 search warrants, including one at a Cerritos commercial building where they believe the operation was housed. While searching the building, in the 11100 block of Artesia Boulevard, officers also took bets from callers, Anaheim Lt. James Flammini said.
. . .
     Investigators alleged that those arrested, who range in age from 22 to 65, were taking at least 100,000 bets per month at the Cerritos location and another in Lake Tahoe [note: Lake Tahoe is where the aforementioned plane crash occurred].
     Arrested in California were Alyn Murdoff Brannon, 65, of Costa Mesa; Mark Kiyo Snyder, 30, of Trabuco Canyon; Sushma Gohil, 22, of Orange; Spencer Haruo Okuno, 32, of Pasadena; and Decourcy Wright Graham, 55, of Corona del Mar. Brannon recently spent two years in state prison for bookmaking, Flammini said.
     Arrested in Nevada were Michael Franklin Reeder, 35, of Zephyr Cove; Michael Reid Harvin, 30, of Stateline; Damien Leroux, 30, of Ontario, Canada; Shannon Ione Dolan, 23, of South Lake Tahoe, and Nicole Suzanne Berlandier, 24, of South Lake Tahoe.
2010
     • From Find-a-Case: February 5, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF, v. ALYN M. BRANNON, 
ALSO KNOWN AS AL BRANNON, DEFENDANT.
     On November 12, 2008, the Court sentenced the Defendant Alyn M. Brannon to three years probation after he pled guilty to a misdemeanor information charging him with failure to file an income tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203. The Court also ordered the Defendant to serve six months in home confinement and to pay restitution in the amount of $30,000.00…. On November 30, 2009, the Defendant filed a Combined Motion for Early Termination of Probation and Brief in Support…. The Court set the motion for hearing … and heard evidence from the Defendant on February 5, 2010…. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's Motion for Early Termination of Probation is hereby DENIED.
. . .
     [U]nlike the defendant in McNeill, the Defendant in this case has a prior criminal history and violated the conditions of his pretrial release while awaiting sentencing in this case.... Such demerits notwithstanding, the Court granted a departure from the sentencing guidelines (at the government's request) to avoid incarcerating the Defendant and placed him on probation for well less than the maximum term possible. There is no indication that the defendant in McNeill received such merciful consideration prior to being released from probation early. These dissimilarities from McNeill all relate to one or more of the factors set forth in Section 3553(a), and they far outweigh any factors favoring early release.

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Summer runnin' down