Frank Lopez -- Pay or Play?

Detectives say a Vista Councilman spent thousands at a local casino

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP/Carolyn Kaster
    Philly's first casino, SugarHouse means business with their new opening - the slots have arrived.

    Where did the money to pay employees of a Vista city councilman go? -- Apparently the slots...

    Vista City Councilman Frank Lopez and his wife spent thousand of dollars at a North County casino the North County Times is reporting.

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    The Lopez's are both charged with allegedly failing to pay workers' compensation to cover employees at their Mexican food restaurant for ten years.

    A year-long investigation into the couple, led prosecutors to file charges against them.

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    Sgt. Mark Varnau, with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department financial crimes unit, told the paper that the couple lost an estimated $56,000 at the casino between 2004 and 2009.

    Evidence suggests that the councilman and his wife were players at a second casino, the paper said, and therefore could have been net winners or lost more money, but the other casino would not cooperate with investigators.

    Prosecutors allege the couple failed to pay into the mandatory state insurance program from Nov. 28, 2000 and Jan. 8, 2010.

    Investigators also found the pair repeatedly wrote bad payroll checks to workers at Casa Linda Mexican Restaurant in Vista.

    A conviction means the couple could face a sentence of one year in jail or probation.

    Lopez was elected to the Vista City Council in 2004. His term expires in 2012.