Pima County RICO Funds Related Arrest Brings New Attention To Abuses

“I’m very concerned with the abuses of CAF. It is so similar to the classic story of Robin Hood, where the Sheriff of Nottingham preys upon the poor to enrich himself and the King. My 2016 bill was designed to help the poor, but not to harm law enforcement from going after drug cartels and organized crime, which was the original intent of CAF and RICO laws. Please watch John Oliver’s 15 minute special on Civil Asset Forfeiture, it’s both funny and sobering…,” stated Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe.

Innocent residents across the state, like Terry and Ria Platt, are being stripped of their personal property by law enforcement agencies through Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture laws. As a result, law enforcement agencies have come under scrutiny for their use of RICO funds.

Through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, law enforcement agencies can seize property which can then be kept or sold by them, based only on the allegation of a crime. Too often, the protections outlined in Arizona’s RICO rules are denied by law enforcement agencies and due process is not afforded to the property owners.

Because of the abuses of both the RICO laws and the funds provided by them, groups like the ACLU, the Institute for Justice, and the Goldwater Institute have called for reforms.

Pima County hands caught in RICO cookie jar

Just last Friday, Deputy Chief Chris Radtke of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, was arraigned on 7 counts related to the misuse of RICO funds. In the indictment, “known and unknown” conspirators are referred to in relation to a left of funds of approximately $500,000.

According to the indictment, the alleged misuse of funds began in 2011 while the Department was under the leadership of Clarence Dupnik. Sheriff Department sources say Dupnik has been addled the last few years he was in office. Although he had already left the Department in the care of Nanos and Richard Kastigar, Dupnik held onto the office long enough to avoid a special election for his replacement. As the ADI reported earlier, during the 2012 election, Dupnik denied the suspicions by his staff that he had no intention of completing his term.

In January 2014, Dupnik officially named Nanos as his Chief Deputy, Nanos had been responsible for the overall management of the Department. Dupnik argued that Nanos’s appointment would “ensure continuity and stability in the organization as we go through this period of leadership transition,” hinting at his retirement.

Dupnik said that he hoped the Pima County Supervisors would name Nanos as his replacement, and by a 4 to 1 vote, the supervisors did just that. Only Supervisor Ally Miller voted against the Nanos appointment. She did so because she questioned the entire process and the fact that it disenfranchised the voters.

At the time of his appointment, many believed that it was imperative that Nanos or some other Dupnik administration operative fill Dupnik’s shoes in order to ensure that the department’s notorious corruption not be exposed.

Related articles:

Pima County Sheriff Chief Deputy Radtke Pleads Not Guilty In RICO Abuse Case

Pima County Sheriff Personnel Shuffle Questions Persist

Nanos Handling Of Chief Of Staff Death Raising Questions For Pima County Public

While Dupnik called Pima County the “Mecca of hate and bigotry,” other called his Office “corrupt” and “above the law.

Taking from the poor to give to the empowered

The Institute For Justice says that Arizona’s forfeiture laws are so highly complex that even lawyers often struggle to understand them—let alone the average person. The state’s laws allow law enforcement officials to take and keep property, while depriving innocent victims of their constitutional rights. Case in point: Terry and Ria Platt—an innocent elderly couple caught up in Arizona’s forfeiture maze—who have teamed up with the Institute for Justice to put an end to this unconstitutional process.

In Arizona, property owners face a rigged system where each turn can lead to a dead-end. Owners have only 30 days to either petition the prosecutor to reconsider the forfeiture or ask permission to go to court to fight back. But this process requires owners to file a sophisticated legal document with a lot of information—often without the benefit of a lawyer. If they miss the 30-day window or mess up the document, they lose their property forever. And most of the time, it is the prosecutor—not a judge—who decides what to give back and what to keep. Even worse, police and prosecutors get to keep 100 percent of what they forfeit, setting up a financial incentive to seize as much property and cash as they can. In fact, Arizona law enforcement seized more than $36,000,000 in 2015 alone.

“Arizona’s civil forfeiture maze is the greatest threat to property rights and due process today,” explained IJ Senior Attorney Paul Avelar, who is representing the Platts. “No one should lose their property without being convicted of a crime and law enforcement should not be allowed to keep and spend what they forfeit.”

Navajo County prosecutors have been using this system to keep Terry and Ria from having their day in court. The Platts had their car seized after police pulled over their son—who does not own the car—for a window tint violation. The police found cash and a small amount of personal-use marijuana, both of which the son said were his. Arizona law does not allow law enforcement to forfeit property for having cash and a small amount of marijuana, yet prosecutors are ignoring the law and trying to keep the car.

Terry and Ria got a notice in the mail a few weeks after the seizure telling them that the prosecutors would be trying to forfeit the car. “We’re not lawyers and we’d never heard of civil forfeiture,” said Terry. “This has been a nightmare,” said Ria. “This should never happen to anyone in the United States.”

Terry and Ria mailed in the paperwork to get the car back before the 30-day window closed. But Terry and Ria had unknowingly fallen into a trap called “uncontested forfeiture,” which is an administrative forfeiture where there is no judge, only a prosecutor who reviews petitions and decides whether to keep the property or return it. The prosecutor who reviewed the Platts’ petition declared it “null and void” and filed an application for forfeiture. That prohibits the property owner from fighting the forfeiture and grants the government a lower burden of proof, virtually assuring the property owner will be permanently stripped of his property rights. Much or most of what Arizona law enforcement takes in through civil forfeiture involves uncontested forfeiture.

“The name “uncontested forfeiture” is a lie and the process is unconstitutional,” said IJ Attorney Keith Diggs. “Uncontested forfeiture violates due process because it allows prosecutors to act as judges, even though they get to keep what they forfeit. The U.S. Supreme Court has already struck down similar schemes as a violation of due process.”

“Terry and Ria are innocent and haven’t done anything wrong,” explained Avelar. “But in the upside-down world of civil forfeiture, the government can presume them to be guilty until they prove their innocence. This case will put a stop to Arizona’s rigged forfeiture system.”

Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe has worked to stop the abuses. “I’m very concerned with the abuses of CAF. It is so similar to the classic story of Robin Hood, where the Sheriff of Nottingham preys upon the poor to enrich himself and the King,” stated Thorpe. “My 2016 bill was designed to help the poor, but not to harm law enforcement from going after drug cartels and organized crime, which was the original intent of CAF and RICO laws. Please watch John Oliver’s 15 minute special on Civil Asset Forfeiture, it’s both funny and sobering. In it you’ll see numerous abuses from across the country of CAF, including one law enforcement agency that used CAF funds to purchase a frozen margarita machine for their break room, truly appalling behavior!”

9 Comments

  1. Let’s be clear….the police are doing their job. The LaWalls of this state are the ones who order their flunkies (prosecutors) to plead cases or dismiss them because they don’t want to “waste” man hours arguing cases in court, claiming a back log of cases because they are just overwhelmed by crime. They still keep assets even if they aren’t working within the system accordingly. If you think you’re disappointed in this try being the officers who busted their collective asses to put together a solid prosecutable case, (oftentimes against a repeat offender) and in doing so followed all the rules to have a lackey at the CA’so tell you they’re going to dismiss it bcuz a defense attorney is going to file a motion. Funny thing is….that’s part of the justice system. But there really is no true justice in Pima County…just politicians. At least they actually prosecute cases in Maricopa and Pinal Counties.

  2. If we were ruled by Angels we would not need laws. The Human Race is a mess! We need to find our way back to God!

  3. This has been going on for years and to keep the monies instead of turning over to the general fund where it had voter representation. Just read this backdoor prop 205 that was just the beginning secret police with seizure rights dress up like Mexican troops.

    Well at least the progressives at the Arizona Red Star will have more government media released info to distribute.

    It is just now coming to the surface where is the investigative reporting just editorials scolding for those in noncompliance to Open borders & New World Order

    Rupert Murdoch had an interesting analogy on what newspaper to make a run to purchase. Rupert; ” Simple I read the editorials when they insult a large part of the reader base circulation declines ” It will be ready for sale I sell a paper everyone can read it is what people will pay to advertise in. Now the Red Star limits online view to 5 well there goes more people not looking at advertizing. Just how far will the Murduro mindset in Tucson prevail in till it is no more. Dont report or investigate the hand that feeds you

  4. Confiscation laws property taken to protect the greater good is understandable. If property taken not for the greater good then what is it? Progressive socialist umbrella for all, and all willing, will fit you just have to be willing. Think I have seen this develop before and centered in Western Europe. I see it developing again with bigger horizons

  5. Based on media reports that SHERIFF DEPUTIES are themselves afraid to speak out about appointed Sheriff Nanos` personnel & RICO abuses, it is not hysteria that leads one to conclude that the Sheriff has effectively established a police state atmosphere in the Sheriff`s Department. Imagine what is in store for the rest of us if Nanos is actually ELECTED to the office, which he no doubt will view as a stamp of approval of the improper exercise of authority he is currently practicing within the Department? Civil forfeiture abuses will be the lest of our worries.

  6. I guess somebody needs to start a petition to change the law and have the people vote on it. It is ridiculous and insane that this has been happening to innocent people.

  7. The laws we have are not being enforced by the people elected to enforce the laws. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.We are seeing this in the local and national governments.

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