Herman Fillas, the U.S. attorney for the Sacramento region, has been accused by a convicted Southern California confidence man of taking a $7,500 bride while director of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Richard Timothy Workman, 42, said by law enforcement officials to be connected to organized crime circles in San Diego, told state and federal officials he passed the money to Fillas five years ago in a Los Angeles restaurant in return for reinstatement of his dealer's license.
But, he said, Fillas took the money and did nothing for it.
Fillas, whose jurisdiction encompasses most of Northern California outside of San Francisco, called the charges "crazy". He said he had received a $1,000 political contribution from Workman early in 1974 but had received nothing else.
Workman currently is in custody at the California Institution for Men at Chino on a variety of fraud and grand theft charges. He went on trial this week in Santa Ana on nine othere counts involving fraud and theft and is expected to go on trial again in San Diego County on similar charges after the current trial is finished.
The prosecutors in the Santa Ana and San Diego case have refused to delay the trials while federal agents quiz Workman on the Fillas affair.
Robert Stevenson, spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, confirmed that the department's public integrity section is "reviewing" the allegations which he said were brought to their attention by Fillas himself.
Attorney Kathleen Levitz has been assigned to review the charges, which are being investigated by a state-federal team headed by FBI special agent Tim McNally.
Fillas was appointed U.S. attorney by President Carter in December of 1977 at the urging of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calid.).
Fillas is the top man in a long-running probe of political corruption in the California legislature. After 18 months of special grand jury hearings, that investigation produced two indictments of minor political figures and in both cases the charges were dropped.
But it was the probe of the legislature that sparked the current allegations. In August 1978, then-attorney general Evelle J. Younger grew frustrated at what he saw as FBI stonewalling on sharing information with state agents who were also looking into charges of legislator misconduct.
Younger ordered a separate, parallel investigation, and almost immediately Workman came to the attention of state agents through Los Angeles sheriff's office intelligence sources. They took Workman's allegation to the Fbi in Sacramento last February, but they were ignored because, federal agents felt, Workman was out to win himself a grant of immunity and was a good enough con man to pass lie detector tests. However, a polygraph expert who tested workman for two days in September said Fillas' accuser was not lying when quizzed about his dealings with Fillas.
Law enforcement sources say Workman was involved in illicit auto sales operations under the control of organized crime elements and the connection made restoration of his auto sales license crucial to both him and the mob.
Final appeals for restoration of his license through legal channels are dated Aug. 22, 1974. Fillas had been defeated in a race for secretary of state in the June 1974 primary. Workman asserted Fillas expected to be appointed DMV director in the incoming gubernatorial administration of Edmund G. Brown Jr. when Workman and Fillas met in the Los Angeles restaurant.
Fillas was appointed by Brown on Feb. 6, 1975. Sources say his handwriting and signature or initials appear on documents pertaining to Workman's licensure. The personal handling of such documents by the DMV director is unusual, the sources say.
Fillas said in an interview he could not recall seeing any documents pertaining to Workman's licensure.