DA: Official’s ex-campaign chief attempted extortion

Eugenia Sanchez

The district attorney’s office has filed charges alleging a
former chief of staff in Hollister City Councilwoman Eugenia
Sanchez’s run for Assembly attempted to extort money from her after
she had purchased a vehicle from him.
The district attorney’s office has filed charges alleging a former chief of staff in Hollister City Councilwoman Eugenia Sanchez’s run for Assembly attempted to extort money from her after she had purchased a vehicle from him.

Prosecutors recently filed charges on suspicion of attempted extortion against Anand Goundar, a Sacramento-area man who works for a nonprofit group he referred to as Coalition 5000 and also, apparently, as a vehicle salesman.

The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office in a press statement noted how Sanchez notified the Hollister Police Department, which oversaw the investigation, of the suspected threats.

Goundar earlier this year agreed to be Sanchez’s chief of staff after she had met him while visiting the Sacramento organization. District Attorney Candice Hooper confirmed how prosecutors allege he sold her a vehicle and then attempted to extort more money from her afterward. Hooper said no money exchanged hands, though.

Hooper also alleged Goundar threatened to embarrass Sanchez, Hollister mayor at the time, by reporting she had accepted two political donations from him – for $800 and $990 – and that he would tell the media about it if she did not give him money.

The district attorney said his allegation about the donations was false. She said Goundar had donated a smaller amount and that Sanchez reported it, but that the other, larger donations did not occur.

“He felt she would succumb to the threats,” Hooper said. “These types of threats do occur.”

Sanchez declined to comment for the most part, noting how more information would become public at an arraignment hearing set for Goundar on Jan. 5.

“I can’t really go into detail because it’s still pending litigation,” she said.

Goundar couldn’t be reached immediately before publication regarding the charges, and a phone number given by a Sacramento-area real-estate business where he had worked was not in service. He has alleged to the Free Lance in a separate interview that Sanchez accepted – and failed to report – the donations totaling nearly $1,800. The newspaper held off on publishing the story because a police investigator contended it would damage the investigation.

Goundar in that interview, however, alleged that she had requested the money from him to pay for a seminar in Southern California, and that she never reported it as required by law. He also confirmed she replaced him weeks later.

“She wanted specifically cash,” he said at the time. “She said it was the last minute.”

At the time, he told the newspaper he would be willing to take a lie detector test.

“If she says I didn’t give her money, tell her to go to a lie detector test with him,” he said in the interview.

Sanchez had not been active, meanwhile, since announcing her run for the 28th Assembly District earlier this year. Early last week, she said she was “still contemplating” her candidacy to succeed Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, who is running for State Senate.

If convicted, Goundar faces the potential for not longer than one year or state prison or by fine not exceeding $10,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment, according to the penal code.

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