King County prosecutors say that for nearly two years Capitol Hill-based artist DK Pan functioned as the "Chief Operating Officer" of illegal gambling "speakeasy" bars tied to cocaine deals and Mexican gun-smuggling operations. They also say that his organization, the Free Sheep Foundation, is nothing more than a "front" used to launder money earned from the underground gambling houses.
Sound Transit, on the other hand, says Pan is a "great artist," and that they're sticking by him as he continues his job as the lead artist for the Capitol Hill Art Wall Project set up around the construction site for the new light-rail stop in that neighborhood--a job he is being paid $10,000 to do over four years.
Reached by phone today, Sound Transit Art Program Manager Barbara Luecke said that "certain facts were being misrepresented" about Pan, and that she has no reason to question his role in facilitating art and commissioning artists for the wall project.
"DK was hired through an open call for artists," says Luecke. "We're very happy with the work he's done, and he's still delivering on the work he's been contracted on. Nothing's been proven yet."
As for what facts are being misrepresented, she wouldn't say, but suggested we "ask DK."
We did. He e-mailed this response:
Abiding by the advice of my attorney I cannot talk about the ongoing case, though I would very much like to set record straight.
According to the charging documents seen below, Pan functioned as the second-in-command to Richard Wayne Wilson, the mastermind behind several illegal gambling houses around Seattle as first reported by SeattleCrime.
Wilson was convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover officer who showed up regularly to his speakeasies and of smuggling guns to Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison last June.
Per King County charging documents:
Pan performed duties consistent with a "Chief Operating Officer" and bartender and dealer/player for the enterprises affiliated with Rick Wilson . . . Supervising and coordinating the day-to-day illegal activities at the location(s).
As for the Free Sheep Foundation "front" organization that Pan allegedly set up out of its one-story Belltown studio on Third Avenue, prosecutors contend that it was merely used to launder money.
In fact names such as "Don't Arrest Us, Incorporated" and "Legal Front" were apparently joked about (on audio recordings, no less) as being possible names for the foundation, but that Free Sheep was eventually settled on.
Of course, the foundation has hosted several seemingly legitimate art events (as defended in the reporting-free rant published by The Stranger this week), but hosting real art events doesn't preclude the foundation from functioning, in all other aspects, as a front.
Whether prosecutors have enough evidence to convict Pan and the rest of his alleged cohorts remains to be seen. But for now, Pan is safe knowing that his side job as a publicly funded art coordinator remains perfectly safe.