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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mystery Solved: Alleged Con Man Danny Garcia Isn't a Killer -- He's a Lover

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 7:35 PM

click to enlarge Daniel Garcia - COURTESY TYSON WRENSCH
  • Courtesy Tyson Wrensch
  • Daniel Garcia

Daniel Garcia, 27, one of five San Francisco alleged con men charged with murdering and robbing a retired Palm Springs art dealer, knew nothing of the purported crimes, his attorney said Wednesday.

So how is it that during the two weeks following the Dec. 4 disappearance of Cliff Lambert, 74, Garcia used Lambert's bank card to make 21 withdrawals and purchases totaling more than $13,000? And why did alleged co-conspirator Miguel Bustamante, 26, finger Garcia as among the group allegedly involved in Lambert's disappearance, according to police?

The answer is simple, says Garcia's defense attorney Mario Rodriguez: Garcia's a lover, not a killer.

Garcia was merely accepting gifts from a some-time boyfriend when he made all those withdrawals. And he never even met Bustamante, Rodriguez said.

"It's probably no secret, but there's a certain scene here in Palm Springs. This case has a sexual, alternative lifestyle overtones, and, uh, that's how they met, given the social scene in Palm Springs," Rodriguez explained. "Actually they met in Hollywood at a social function there a number of years ago there, and they became friends after that."

After the Hollywood hookup, Lambert opened his heart and bank account to Garcia, Rodriguez said. "They were very good friends, and Mr. Lambert was a generous person. And he liked to shower his friends with gifts," Rodriguez said. Garcia was arrested earlier this month on murder and theft charges in connection with an alleged scheme to steal the assets of Lambert, whom no one has seen for more than four months. Also arrested were Garcia's occasional boyfriend Kaushal Niroula, 26, and Niroula's other boyfriend, David Replogle, 60. Replogle also served for several years as Garcia's attorney.

Stay tuned for an exclusive SF Weekly flow chart of connections among Garcia's personal support network.

While Garcia was emptying Lambert's accounts with a bank card, Replogle and Niroula were forging documents to seize control of Lambert's $1 million house and other assets, police allege. Garcia's attorney acknowledges the friendships between his client and the two suspects. But he says Garcia did not introduce Replogle or Niroula to Lambert. And Garcia was not part of a murder-larceny plot.

"We expect to show that Mr. Lambert had given Mr. Garcia  permission to" withdraw money from his accounts, Rodriguez said, adding that it's not against the law to accept a lover's gift.

"They were good friends," Rodriguez said. But Garcia "had nothing to do with the homicide."

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