OAKLAND — The local businessman expected to be the star witness in the corruption trial of a man with close ties to current and former city officials died last week, his wife said Thursday.

Donald Cooper, 56, died Feb. 16 after battling liver cancer for several months, said his wife, Cynthia Campbell Cooper.

According to federal officials, Maurice Himy of San Rafael promised Cooper a contract with the city to sell its surplus vehicles and other property in return for cash, promising to use his connections to several city officials, including "Oakland City Official A," who has been identified as Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.

Cooper's death will complicate the federal government's case against Himy, officials said.

Campbell Cooper said her husband was diagnosed with the disease in November, not long after Himy's arrest sparked a high-profile and wide-ranging investigation into whether city officials traded contracts for favors.

De La Fuente, who acknowledges he is the unnamed city official, has not been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing.

According to an FBI affidavit, Cooper went to the FBI in April 2005 to report he was being extorted. Cooper recorded several conversations and telephone calls with Himy, which had been expected to make up the bulk of the case.

Campbell Cooper said the media glare that accompaniedHimy's arrest and the investigation worsened her husband's illness.


"We were victims," Campbell said, as she made arrangements for her husband's funeral.

Campbell Cooper remembered her husband of 21/2years as a sharp, witty man with a talent for sales.

"He was very committed to building our business into a strong and thriving enterprise," Campbell Cooper said, referring to

C & C Enterprises.

Campbell Cooper said her husband struggled with the decision to go to the FBI and record conversations with Himy.

"He didn't want to let anyone hurt our business," Campbell Cooper said.

Cooper also served as the former executive director of the sister city association between Oakland and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

In 1995, Cooper was convicted of making false statements to the government while applying for reimbursement for property damage caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake and sentenced to 41 months in prison, according to court records.

John Burris, Cooper's attorney, said he would remember his longtime friend's courage in going to the FBI. All Cooper ever wanted was to become a successful Oakland businessman, Burris added.

"He did it because it was the right thing to do," Burris said, adding he expects Cooper's death to muddle the case against Himy.

"It's unfortunate that he won't be able to see the case through to its conclusion," Burris said. "It's a tragic loss."

Himy's attorney, William Osterhoudt, declined to comment, saying he hadn't received any official notification of Cooper's death. Himy is due back in court March 12 for a pretrial hearing in front of Judge Claudia Wilkin.

Luke MacAuley, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment, noting federal officials have not officially identified the informant, who is referred to as "Confidential Witness 1" in official documents.

According to an FBI affidavit, Himy referred to Oakland as "Moneytown" and told Cooper unless he was paid he would "kill the contract." At first, Himy demanded a percentage of the contract's revenue, but later asked for $65,000 total to be paid in monthly installments.

Cooper told FBI agents that Himy demanded $10,000 for De La Fuente as part of the deal for the contract. Although many of the conversations between Cooper and Himy were recorded, that one was not, officials said.

Himy is the former owner of Spaccio, a men's clothing store on Oakland City Hall Plaza, which closed nearly a year ago after selling suits to Mayor Jerry Brown and other city officials. In 2004, Himy traveled to Morocco with Brown, his aide Jacques Barzaghi and several prominent Oakland businessmen to sign a sister city agreement.