Mayor’s arrest brought SLT unwanted notoriety

Tahoe Daily Tribune headlines in June 1989 were all about Operation Deep Snow. Photo/LTN

Tahoe Daily Tribune headlines in June 1989 were all about Operation Deep Snow. Photo/LTN

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories Lake Tahoe News will be running leading up to the 50th anniversary of South Lake Tahoe on Nov. 30.

slt 50th logoBy Kathryn Reed

June 11, 1989, started out like any other Sunday in the basin – sunny, blue sky, uneventful. Before it was over South Lake Tahoe was making headlines internationally.

Mayor Terry Trupp, 46, his 24-year-old wife Kim (who at one time was his foster daughter), and 17 others were arrested that weekend on a slew of drug and money laundering charges. Many were South Shore residents. Even more were arrested down the road as the case unfolded.

The display of weaponry, cash and drugs at the South Lake Tahoe police station was impressive.

Stacks of one-hundred and thousand dollar bills were confiscated. Automobiles, motorcycles, jewelry, bank accounts, real estate, and gun cases – all seized – all believed to have been obtained by drug money.

Money was laundered using offshore banks, real estate and local businesses.

It was retired El Dorado County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Van Arnum who put the handcuffs on Trupp. (He was working for South Lake Tahoe Police Department at the time.) Both Trupps were arrested at Lake Tahoe Airport where they had gone to pick up friends.

This is one of the biggest stories to happen in South Lake Tahoe in the last 50 years and is certainly the largest criminal act involving a member of the City Council.

Trupp was first elected in 1978 after serving several years as executive officer of the Council for Logic. That was the group opposed to the formation of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. He was re-elected in 1982 and 1986. In 1984, he made an unsuccessful run for the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

His last day as a member of the council was July 31, 1989. He had submitted his letter of resignation earlier in the month, on the same day his one-year stint as mayor ended. This negated the recall drive that had been initiated.

Bruce Grego was appointed to fill Trupp’s unexpired term.

Trupp initially faced 21 counts, including allegations of laundering $845,000 in drug profits and bringing in 220 pounds of cocaine to Tahoe. He was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Terry Trupp was in his third term on the South Lake Tahoe City Council when he was arrested in June 1989. Photo/South Lake Tahoe

Terry Trupp was in his third term on the South Lake Tahoe City Council when he was arrested on June 11, 1989. Photo/South Lake Tahoe

In August 1990 he pleaded guilty to two counts – conspiracy to launder money and unlawful use of communications for drug deals. On Oct. 11, 1990, he was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.

An Associated Press story at the time said, “(Trupp) said he pleaded guilty because he could not prove it was the fear of death and not the money that motivated him. Trupp read a long, involved statement accusing federal agents of using patriotism, fear, death threats and sympathy for persecuted Jews in coercing him to sell cocaine and launder drug money in the Lake Tahoe resort.”

Trupp was released before he served his full sentence. He later remarried and worked in sales.

He died Aug. 20, 2008, of a staph infection. He was 65 and living in Southern California at the time.

Kim Trupp pleaded guilty to money laundering, which earned her a 21-month prison sentence. She could have faced 10 years behind bars and a $500,000 fine. She was Terry Trupp’s fourth wife. Trupp and his third wife became foster parents to Kim Trupp when she was 14.

In court documents Terry Trupp bragged of laundering money for 20 years.

People in town often wondered where he got his money. While he lived in a modest ranch-style house on Glenwood Way, he did have a Maserati. He had a bit of a pompadour, wore flashy gold chains and unbuttoned shirts. The couple were members of the local Church of Latter-day Saints.

On his 1987 and 1988 financial disclosure forms Trupp reported no income. The 1989 form lists more than $10,000 coming from consulting work for Heavenly Valley Resort Hotel, now the Tahoe Seasons Resort.

He was pro development and one of the leaders of the initial redevelopment efforts in South Lake Tahoe. Much of his campaign money came from the Stateline casinos, some of which he was doing consulting work for while on the council.

At the height of the investigation there were two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents and 30 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on the case. South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team had formed the previous October.

The FBI-DEA investigation, which included U.S. Customs, U.S. Treasury and local law enforcement, was known as Operation Deep Snow. The name for the 20-month investigation came from all the cocaine that was exchanging hands.



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Comments (21)
  1. Another X Local says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    Some of us weren’t the least surprised at the news of the bust. We were aboard our boat in the Delta where Feds had also been snooping around as part of the investigation when the news broke. Part of that drug operation involved a “derelict” old military boat not far from our marina. The Feds, trying to masquerade as fisherman, stuck out like sore thumbs. We hadn’t even heard who was busted but knew it was Trupp.

  2. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    .Terry Trupp! HiS wife ann adopted daughtr. What a bunch. Matching motorcycles and leather suuis for riding together. They lived on Glenwood for awhile.
    Deep Snow. OlS

  3. reloman says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    where in the world did they get thousand dollar bills, those have been out of circulation since 1969.

  4. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    So enough of the good people of South Lake Tahoe voted for this guy to elect him to serve on the City Council for three terms in 1978, 1982, and 1986? Good job! Wonder if he would have continued to be elected had he not been arrested and incarcerated. How funny that some former City Council Members take umbrage that the City says they’d like the level of elected official professionalism elevated.

    Ah yes, those “good old days” to which so many say they long to return, when apparently the practice of City Council’s was to look the other way. I wonder how many palms were being greased.

  5. Robin Smith says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    relo…I left a comment on the declining casino revenues article.

    I used to deal to players that had rolls of $1,000.00 bills as big as your fist.

  6. Garry Bowen says - Posted: October 30, 2015


    ‘Relo’ is correct (as to your answer in ‘declining revenues’) – it’s easy in hindsight to elaborate memories. . .as some do.

  7. copper says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . . . ”

    Folks close to that investigation from the beginning will tell you that the real heroes were the “grunt” level local law-enforcement folks who looked the politically influential in the eyes and told them to “shove it.” The probation officer who refused to allow a superior court judge to set the direction for his investigations. The local police officers and investigators who saw through Trupp and refused to be directed by the politicians who defended Trupp as one of their own. The local FBI agents who knew who to trust and who not to within the law enforcement community, and quietly coordinated the entire case.

    Local law enforcement’s finest hour, setting the tone for future cooperative investigations.

  8. Grey Hair says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    The memories! Back in the day – where a lot of local folk really thought they lived in a bubble (Stephen King’s Dome?), immune from anything that would be on the 6:00 news or in the Sacramento Bee.

  9. M Elie Alyeshmerni says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    Just reading the headline was troubling. No indication that this was a reporting of a past event. Brought is in the past but it could have been a recent past while I was away.
    Anyways, it forced me to read a few more lines

  10. Robin Smith says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    Garry…I was away from Tahoe in the 80’s and most of the 90’s so I missed that entire segment of the filthy goings on here in Tahoe.

    The period from which I speak is 1965-1975:) and you are correct in the respect that,

    “If you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there.”

  11. sunriser2 says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    As Skibum, Puts it “the lawless 1980’s”.

    Had a lot of fun back then. If you weren’t there you wouldn’t believe the stories.

  12. Grey Hair says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    sunriser2 says – true that!!

  13. Robin Smith says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    Sun& Grey,

    Righto! The stories don’t hold a candle to the truth.

  14. rock4tahoe says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    The “notorious” part of the Terry Trupp story were the other “civic leaders” that did NOT get busted.

  15. Slapshot says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    In other words copper, law enforcement did their job. Glad they did this was a sad chapter.

  16. Parker says - Posted: October 30, 2015

    How do you like this? You said it Rock!!

    I had a couple people in law enforcement tell me that the DEA stood for, ‘Don’t Expect Anything’. And that there were many more busts that were supposed to, but never, materialize.

    It was so blatant that Trupp was making money from illegal activities, simply amazing that he got away with it for so long.

    And dealing & laundering are still going on in a pretty significant way in this town! It’s just not so quite out in the open as it was then.

  17. Alan Smithee says - Posted: October 31, 2015

    I survived “Deep Snow” !

  18. Robin Smith says - Posted: October 31, 2015

    Remember the book written “FLY ON THE WALL” by some Las Vegas journalist years ago when the mobsters were ruling Vegas?

    The book about Tahoe in the 60’s should be,”HEAD DOWN, MOUTH SHUT, DUMMY UP AND DEAL”.

    As a matter of fact that’s what I think I’ll title my book:)

    Any advance orders?:)

  19. Justice says - Posted: October 31, 2015

    Funny how people posing as slick politicians think they are untouchable and can claim no income and drive a Maserati and they thought no-one was watching. Only a few, like the Clintons, can pull off the law breaking and influence selling thinking nobody knows.

  20. Robin Smith says - Posted: November 1, 2015

    Just *-Only a few….can pull off law breaking and influence selling thinking nobody knows.-

    THEY KNOW…they are simply ‘flaunting’ their ‘immunity’ and threating everyone that is not in it with them, complicity or fear keep the minions inline.

  21. rock4tahoe says - Posted: November 2, 2015

    Hey Justn@ss, why don’t you go “wrestle” with your buddy Dennis Hastert for while ;)