Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
George Munger and the Golden Girl: Memories of J. David Dominelli's Ponzi Scheme
Wednesday's death of restaurateur George Munger at age 69 has brought back memories of his link to J. David Dominelli, San Diego’s most notorious Ponzi swindler. In the early 1980s, Piret’s was the place to be seen for up and coming San Diego politicos and nouveau riche. He and wife Piret Korkmann had opened the Perfect Pan in 1974, just before the real estate boom created a growing rogue class of developers and speculators who, having made millions of dollars in dubious activities, needed somewhere to flaunt it. When it opened in 1979, Piret’s provided the perfect outlet for the big spenders who flocked to the tony French bistro.
One loyal customer was J. David Dominelli, who “invested” more than $100 million that he collected from greedy and gullible locals in mysterious foreign currency trades. Dominelli was jailed in 1984 when his Ponzi scheme fell apart and it was subsequently revealed that he had lavished money on such things as getting Roger Hedgecock elected mayor and making a $150,000 personal loan to Munger, who said he used the cash to expand his burgeoning restaurant and gourmet gift shop empire.
The Union reported that the money didn’t have to be paid back for ten years. “It was a long-term personal loan -- it was not a business investment,” Piret Munger told the paper, adding that the couple had met Dominelli through Dominelli’s girlfriend Nancy Hoover, the ex-glamour girl and Del Mar mayor who, like Dominelli, would later go to prison for her role in the J. David Ponzi scheme. The Mungers said they also consulted for Vittorio’s, a posh Del Mar restaurant and watering hole that Dominelli set up as a plaything for Hoover.
In August 1985, J. David bankruptcy trustee Louis Metzger sued Munger to obtain repayment of the $150,000 principal and $62,792 interest on the loan. By then Munger’s restaurant operation had been sold to Denver-based Vicorp Restaurants. Munger told the L.A. Times that the matter would be resolved in due time. "It's just a process of getting (them) the money.”