Iranian bar owner Tommy M. Motlagh insisted, in a conversation taped secretly more than a year ago, that two then-officials of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control board would receive nothing for helping him set up a liquor store in Hechinger Mall.
Jurors in the trial of former ABC chairman Robert C. Lewis and his top aide, James E. Boardley, heard Motlagh acknowledge assistance from the two officials in obtaining a lease for a store at the Northeast Washington mall, but twice insist that the officials would not profit by aiding him.
Lewis and Boardley are charged with conspiracy and bribery for their roles in an alleged scheme to grant Motlagh a liquor license for the proposed store in exchange for a share of its future profits. Motlagh also is charged with conspiracy and bribery.
The tape, played as prosecution evidence in the trial, was recorded Jan. 28, 1981, by an undercover FBI agent posing as a friend and representative of a Hechinger Co. official to whom Lewis and Boardley allegedly offered a hidden interest in the store.
The agent, using the name "Wade McKeever," asks Motlagh in the tape: "Okay, ah, we talked to Lewis and Boardley. Now what are they getting out of this thing?"
McKeever: "Not a thing?"
Motlagh tells McKeever on the tape that because Lewis and Boardley are "good friends," they are acting as intermediaries with the Hechinger official, Daniel Russell, to obtain the lease.
On Tuesday jurors heard another tape, recorded surreptitiously by the agent at Lewis' house six days earlier, in which Lewis said he and Boardley had "an arrangement" with Motlagh. They expected, Lewis said on the tape, to receive between 3 and 5 percent of the store's profits and in return would guarantee that Motlagh receive a liquor license to operate in the mall.
In another secretly taped telephone conversation with Russell, Motlagh says: "I'm not bull--------, but I, I haven't even, you know, think about giving Bob or Jim anything yet . . . As far as I'm concerned, you know, they just were helping me, you know, to get the place."
In that conversation, Motlagh declines to guarantee that a license will be issued, but suggests to Russell, who says he is reticent to grant a lease without the guarantee: "Why don't you talk to Jim and Bob and see what they support. You know if they can help me they will do it, you know that. You see what I mean?"
Russell testified that he agreed to cooperate in a federal investigation of Lewis, Boardley and Motlagh after he felt the officials had threatened him with delays in the project unless he gave Motlagh the lease.
Yesterday, defense attorneys elicited from Russell the testimony that it was he who first suggested to the two officials that they might have an interest in the liquor store's profits. But Russell added that at one point, he waited for Boardley to make initiatives in the alleged scheme because "the government wanted to make sure that there was nothing done that might lead to entrapment."
Another Hechinger official, Celia Wing, testified yesterday that Lewis, who held a cabinet-level city post as head of Licenses, Investigations and Inspections, had called her as early as December 1979, suggesting Motlagh run a liquor store at the mall. She said she had never before received such a call, and that when she failed to write Motlagh a letter saying he was being considered for a lease, Lewis called several more times.