Anthony Silva — the eccentric former mayor of Stockton, Calif., once accused of playing strip poker with teenagers — is facing a slew of new charges alleging that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to help poor children.
Prosecutors say Silva funneled money from the now-defunct Stockton Boys and Girls Club’s bank accounts and used the organization’s credit card to pay for personal expenses — including trips to the Philippines and South Lake Tahoe, retail purchases, Motel 6 charges and recurring monthly payments for a dating website called filipinocupid.com.
The alleged crimes happened from January 2010 to February 2014, prosecutors say. Over a three-year period, $2.7 million is believed to have been taken out of the organization’s accounts through some 50,000 checks. Where that money went remains unknown, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said, according to ABC affiliate KXTV. An investigation is ongoing.
The embattled ex-mayor of Stockton, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, was voted out of office in November. Silva used to run the Boys and Girls Club, now called the Stockton Kids Club. Federal agents searched Silva’s home and the Stockton Kids Club last week, according to media reports.
“The most disadvantaged, economically disadvantaged children in our community were taken advantage of,” San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar told reporters at a news conference Monday, the day after Silva was arrested. “This was money and resources for them, who needed it, and it was taken, stolen and misused.”
Silva and his attorneys have denied the accusations.
“I’ve known Anthony for many years. There’s never been a complaint that I know of of any wrongdoing by anybody on the board,” Doug Srulowitz, lawyer for the Stockton Kids Club, told reporters.
Silva was arrested Sunday at San Francisco International Airport on several felony charges, including embezzlement, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds and grand theft. He was returning from a vacation in Colombia, according to local media reports. A warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday, the day after he left the country, NBC affiliate KCRA reported.
A judge on Monday declined a request from Silva’s attorney to lower the former mayor’s $1 million bail. Allen Sawyer argued that his client was open about his travel plans and willingly returned to the United States “as soon as he heard the charges were brought,” KXTV reported.
Prosecutors, however, argue that Silva is a flight risk. Himelblau told reporters that he doesn’t believe Silva’s trip to Colombia was coincidental.
Sawyer told reporters Friday that people should keep an open mind about the accusations against Silva, adding that “things are not always as they appear,” the Bee reported.
Sawyer was referring to earlier accusations in a different case against Silva.
Seven months before his airport arrest, Silva was accused of providing alcohol to minors, playing a game of strip poker and filming the game. He was charged in August with a felony of secretly recording confidential communications without consent, along with three misdemeanor charges: contributing to the delinquency of a minor, providing alcohol to people under 21 and child endangerment.
In October, while Silva was still in office, a judge reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor, KCRA reported. The case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Tuesday, according to an online docket.
Those alleged crimes happened in August 2015 at Silver Lake Camp in Amador County, northeast of Stockton. Investigators found 23 photographs and four video clips, one of which was made in Silva’s room at the camp and shows him playing strip poker with several of the camp’s counselors, including a 16-year-old boy, according to reports. Prosecutors also accused him of giving alcohol to the participants of the game.
“In one of the video clips, it appeared that moments after the video began, the phone was set down, darkening the camera lens and thus only containing audio,” prosecutors said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That clip contains audio of a conversation between participants involved in a strip poker game that occurred in Silva’s bedroom. The conversation between the participants indicated that they were naked.”
Silva said at a subsequent news conference that everyone at the “counselor party” was 18.
“I never, ever, ever, ever endangered a child … ever,” he told reporters. “I never provided alcohol to anyone, and I certainly did not secretly record anyone.”
Silva, a Republican, was elected mayor in 2012. The eccentric man who once claimed (falsely) that he was Stockton’s first black mayor lost his reelection bid in November amid the first batch of criminal accusations. The voting wasn’t close: Silva lost by more than 40 percentage points to Michael Tubbs, who became the first black mayor of Stockton and, at 26, the youngest in the city’s history, according to his biography.
Silva’s history with controversy is well documented. In 2012, a 19-year-old woman accused him of sexual battery, although no charges were filed.
Two years later, he got into a fight in a limousine, but he was never arrested. The driver and passengers, including a woman who accused Silva of inappropriately touching her, filed a lawsuit.
In 2015, a .40-caliber handgun that was registered to Silva was used to kill a 13-year-old, authorities said. Silva did not immediately report that his gun had been stolen.
Then, he claimed during a 2016 candidate debate hosted by Stockton’s NAACP and Black Women Organized for Political Action that he was the city’s first black mayor. “I think I said, I’m not African American, but I’m pretty darn close,” Silva, who is white, later told a CBS affiliate. “Quite frankly, I could be determined to be the first African American mayor of Stockton.”
Travis M. Andrews contributed to this report.