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[whitespace] Case involving martial arts school finally ends with plea

Local detective began investigation in 1998

Los Gatos--The Jan. 29 judgment made on a San Jose couple closed a chapter in a three-year-long story involving the Los Gatos Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced David Slavin, 39, to five years in prison and five years' probation. Slavin pled guilty to three counts of extortion and one count of causing a bank to file a false report.

Slavin's wife Elizabeth, 40, was also charged with causing a bank to file a false report. She will be placed on probation for the next three years.

The Slavins were arrested in June 1999, while a federal grand jury indicted David Slavin on several charges of extortion, money laundering and misuse of a social security number, and Elizabeth Slavin for extortion and money laundering. Additional counts of extortion and mail fraud were included in David Slavin's charges in a January 2000 indictment.

David Slavin, a former Santa Clara County deputy sherriff, had originally protested his innocence, but entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. District Court, which covers Northern California.

"[Slavin] came to us and said that if we went to trial he would wind up being in prison for 10 years," said Los Gatos Detective Randy Bishop, "and he didn't want to be there for 10 years."

Bishop's involvement began in March 1998, when a report was filed against Slavin by the owners of Studio Kicks, a martial arts school on N. Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos. Larry Lam and Rick Donaldson said that Slavin had used threats of violence in order to collect money that he claimed the two men owed him from a remodeling project, according to the history of the case in Slavin's plea agreement.

The plea agreement also recounted Slavin using a samurai sword and threatening to cut off Donaldson's fingers if he and Lam did not sign promissory notes totaling $140,000, a figure that Slavin could not prove. Detective Bishop became suspicious of Slavin and started to investigate his background.

"One of the things that he told a lot of people was that he was a Green Beret, had killed people, and was a sniper," said Bishop.

But when Bishop made inquiries about Slavin's military history, the State Department's records showed that Slavin had merely enrolled in the Marine Corps for three months in the early 1980s.

"He never made it through basic training--he failed," said Bishop. "That's when I knew he was full of baloney."

Slavin was also known for telling people that he was an expert in an unheard-of form of Japanese martial arts.

In his plea agreement, Slavin admitted to the second count--of blackmailing thousands of dollars from a Monte Sereno woman. The woman, Mary Lean, had discussed with Slavin the idea of opening a fitness club in 1998.

As a result, Slavin falsely claimed to have ordered $1.6 million worth of athletic equipment. Using similar threats of violence and connections to a Sicilian family, Slavin managed to collect $240,000 from Lean throughout the year.

"He had claimed Mafia connections," Bishop said.

The IRS contacted the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department in late 1998, and the two agencies conducted a joint investigation for five months before the arrests of the Slavins.

With some digging, the agencies discovered that Slavin had blackmailed Michael Wells in 1995. Slavin and Wells had agreed on a payment plan for a Saratoga house that Slavin owned, but planned to sell to Wells. When Wells wanted out of the agreement, Slavin made monetary demands, backed by threats of blackmail.

Slavin's charge of causing a bank to file a false report stems from Bank of the West transactions made between 1998 and 1999. Slavin used his mother's Social Security number to open an account, according to the plea agreement.

Slavin's wife, Elizabeth, in her own plea agreement, admitted to giving her husband a check to cash on the account, and knew that he had used misinformation to open the account.

The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno SWAT team arrested the two on the morning of June 4, 1999. Police also conducted a search of their car and home.

The terms of Slavin's sentence include a payment of approximately $300,000 to Mary Lean, according to the plea agreement.

Elizabeth Slavin, released on $100,000 bail (put up by a former martial arts student of David), is free to stay home and care for the couple's 13-year-old son, with supervision.

Bishop said that David Slavin must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence. The earliest he could be out, Bishop said, is August 2003.

According to Bishop, more of Slavin's crimes have emerged on further investigation. Slavin holds four different identities, each with a different Social Security number, Bishop said.

Investigators also found that Slavin had an affair with a Social Security administrator 15 years ago, Bishop said. He explained that Slavin threatened to reveal details of the affair if the woman did not establish new identities for him. The woman, who went through a divorce as a result of the affair, is now a Social Security district manager in Santa Barbara.

"We'll deal with her separately," said Bishop.

"I'm [just] satisfied with the outcome," said Bishop. I'm relieved that the victims don't have to fear anymore."
Gloria I. Wang

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