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Originally published January 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 23, 2008 at 5:11 PM

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The end of "Strippergate"?

Seattle's "Strippergate" saga might finally be coming to an end. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission today will consider a $55,000...

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle's "Strippergate" saga might finally be coming to an end.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission today will consider a $55,000 settlement with Seattle strip-club magnate Frank Colacurcio Sr. and his son Frank Colacurcio Jr. over the campaign-finance scandal that embroiled Seattle City Hall nearly five years ago.

If that's approved, a plea deal in the related criminal case could come at a court hearing set for Thursday.

Under the proposed deal, both Colacurcios would plead guilty to felony charges and pay a substantial fine but avoid jail time, according to sources familiar with the case.

A longtime Colacurcio associate, former lounge singer Gil Conte, plans to plead guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge, said his attorney, Richard Hansen. Conte, 74, would pay a $1,000 fine and have the conviction removed from his record after six months, Hansen said.

The charges stem from an alleged scheme to funnel thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to three Seattle City Council members in 2003. The donors — friends, relatives and business partners of the Colacurcios — allegedly were illegally reimbursed by the defendants to skirt contribution limits.

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office spokesman Dan Donohoe would not confirm any plea deal but said a court hearing has been set for Thursday morning in the case, scheduled to go to trial March 24.

Colacurcio Jr., 46, on Wednesday referred questions to his attorney, John Wolfe.

Wolfe and Irwin Schwartz, an attorney for Colacurcio Sr., 90, said they could not comment on the court hearing.

In the proposed civil settlement with the city ethics panel, the Colacurcios would admit they violated the city's election law by reimbursing donors for contributions to City Council members in 2003, according to a commission agenda.

The contributions came as the Colacurcios were seeking council approval to expand the parking lot at Rick's strip club in the Lake City neighborhood. The council approved the expansion, reversing two previous denials.

Wayne Barnett, executive director of the ethics commission, would not go into further details of the settlement, except to say it would end the city's long-standing case against the Colacurcios, who had long denied involvement in illegal campaign contributions.

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In 2004, the appointed seven-member panel rejected a settlement that would have imposed a $12,500 fine on Colacurcio Jr. and longtime bookkeeper Marsha Furfaro, 68.

Furfaro, who is accused of funneling donations through her two daughters, is not part of the proposed settlement to be considered by the ethics commission today. Prosecutors also are expected to drop charges against her, sources said. Her attorney, Robert Mahler, declined to comment.

The so-called "Strippergate" scandal jolted Seattle city government when media reports in 2003 revealed a surge of more than $36,000 in suspicious contributions from Colacurcio associates to then-City Councilmembers Judy Nicastro, Heidi Wills and Jim Compton.

The three returned many of the contributions, some of which had come from donors as far away as Yakima and Texas. But the political fallout contributed to the ouster of Nicastro and Wills in the 2003 election. Compton was re-elected but left the council in 2006 to pursue other interests.

Criminal charges against the Colacurcios, Furfaro and Conte were filed in 2005 by the late King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, who accused the four of "political money laundering."

The four were charged under a broad false-document law that does not specifically mention campaign contributions. But prosecutors used the statute to allege that the defendants caused phony campaign-finance reports to be filed with the state and city. Each defendant faced up to a year in jail.

In 2006, a judge tossed the criminal charges on a technicality, but they were reinstated last year by the state Supreme Court.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com; Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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