Pima County RICO Abuse Spanned Years, Reform Welcome

Pima County Sheriff’s Department Community Resources Unit/Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers Check Request Form 

Documents related to the use of RICO funds by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office personnel raise several questions:

● How could public servants, entrusted to enforce society’s laws, be so ignorant of them?

● Is ignorance of the law an excuse?

● What is the culpability of a public servant, who obeys an illegal order?

● Are there two sets of rules; one set for the public, and one set for the “public servants.”

Imagine if you will, driving down Old Vail Road travelling 20 miles over the speed limit. When pulled over, you advise the deputy that the speed limit was not posted, so you could not possibly know what the speed limit was, and even if you did know, your spouse ordered you to hurry home, so your speeding is really their fault. Most likely you will receive a ticket. You will not only be out cash, you will lose time. You even put at risk your livelihood due to court appearances.

For some Pima County Sheriff personnel, not only did they get away with speeding, they got promotions. After 18 years of conspiring to misuse RICO, only one player was held responsible. Former Chief Deputy Chris Radtke received a slap on the wrist for his role in the conspiracy. For those, who are ignorant of the law, conspiracy means that a criminal acted with other criminals. In the case of Pima County’s money laundering scheme, the conveniently reported mastermind; the late Chief Deputy Brad Gagnepain, took his own life, and Radtke was left holding the bag.

The public has been told by the United States Assistant Attorney out of Utah, and current Sheriff’s personnel that the other players in the conspiracy were either ignorant of the law, and/or did not personally benefit from breaking the law, so therefore would not be held responsible.

According to Aaron Ludwig, an expert on the use of RICO funds, the language on the receipts for expenses indicate that the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers (SAV) “had been substituted for the Pima County Attorney’s Office as the “administrator” of the Anti-Racketeering Revolving Fund.” This is illegal, but by shifting oversight to volunteers, leaders in the Sheriff’s Office could spend money confiscated from alleged criminals to eat, drink, and be merry.

In one year alone, over $5000 was spent on liquor for the annual celebration of themselves. Leaders rented tuxedos, socks, shoes, and in the instance of then-Captain now-Chief Deanna Johnson, bought ball gowns and was reimbursed with RICO funds:

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Berry, who has since retired from PCSO, purchased a television for his office.

Only a handful of signatures appear on the receipts. The names of Karl Woolridge, Jim Berry, Nicole Feldt, Chris Radtke, and Brad Gagnepain appear on the majority of receipts. Despite having been warned that the spending was problematic in December 2013, Gagnepain and Woolridge continued the practice with no apparent interruption. There is no evidence that Berry or Feldt were made aware of the memo advising against the practice.

According to newly elected Sheriff Mark Napier, Woolridge, Feldt and others were innocents and had no idea that what they were doing was illegal. The scheme had been set-up years before, and those employees were trained to follow the illegal protocol. They were simply following illegal orders without question. If they were reimbursed for ball gowns, tuxedos and other such items, the benefits would be de minimus. In other words, they would be too small to care about.

One former SAV described the approval process as one in which they were asked to sign checks usually by Feldt. The volunteer described Feldt as a cross between a schoolmarm and cheerleader; very enthusiastic but firm when need be. Feldt’s discouraging schoolmarm scowl was usually reserved for those times when SAV members would question why an expense was incurred. At all other times, Feldt was pleasant, enthusiastic, and supportive. According to Napier and others, Feldt appeared to have no idea that she was facilitating a criminal enterprise and was simply following orders.

Feldt left PCSO and landed in Napier’s old job at the University of Arizona. Woolridge, who is well-liked by many of former-Sheriff Chris Nanos’ enemies, was promoted by Napier to a chief’s position.

Napier has called for an investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to see if there were any violations of state RICO laws. Because state laws are far more lax than federal statutes, it is unlikely anyone else will be held responsible.

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier discusses RICO abuse on the James T. Harris radio show 

In an interview on the James T. Harris show on Tuesday, Napier was asked if members of the public could use the ignorance excuse when pulled over by a deputy in the future. “No James, I mean I’m relying on what the FBI told me,” said Napier dodging the question. “So they told me that based on their investigation no one was criminally culpable, and I don’t think it was a matter of ignorance of the law so much as it was whether or not the expenditures that we’re out a policy – out of administrative policy – how you should spend RICO money – rose to the level of criminal conduct. Clearly if you buy things for your office or you are individually profiteering off of that stuff, it’s a criminal act and I think that’s where Radtke got jammed up. Because he was buying airplanes for his office and stuff that were very individual purchases as opposed extravagant big events where hundreds of people benefited from RICO money. Everyone there ate the rubber chicken or whatever they were having. They were very elaborate affairs and I would never approve them in a million years. I looked at documents today that go all the way back to 2002 and further back to 1999. They were spending money on these banquets and that is completely inappropriate. Expenditures with RICO money should’ve never been used for that. We should be using RICO money for law-enforcement purposes and for community groups that help us with law-enforcement; with a public safety Nexus to them. I am as offended as anybody as this about.”Napier concluded that making oversight more robust was all he really could do from “the top.”

It is the apparent lack of interest or feelings of helplessness that prompted legislators this year to put some measures in place to increase transparency and accountability. The new law will go into effect tomorrow.

Related article
Law Enforcement Predicts RICO Seizures Won’t Be Curbed By New Reforms

“We received a memo from Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall stating the Board of Supervisors will be approving all RICO fund expenditures. This comes with great responsibility due to the severe breach of the public trust. The board must have an independent source to review whether expenditures are allowable to ensure 100 percent compliance federal and/or state statutes,” said Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller.

For deputies the change can’t come soon enough. While they struggled to feed their families, and many of them survived with the help of public assistance, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on eating, drinking an being merry.

The following items are just a sample of the purchases made with RICO funds:

Date Vendor/Item Purpose Amount
10/11/2016 Tucson Marriott University Park cancellation charges awards ceremony $15,215
4/20/2015 Professional Impressions 150th anniversary coffee mugs w/ Clarence Dupnik name anniversary $3,164.63
5/12/2015 Peachtree Portraits Pima Co. Sheriff Leatherette Cover members’ legacy albums $1,000
12/7/2015 Costco Poinsettias awards ceremony $518.56
12/15/2015 Tucson Marriott University Park awards ceremony $32,598.78
12/12/2014 Tucson Marriott University Park awards ceremony $30,790.10
3/31/2015 Billyboards chalkboard for The Cafe unspecified $501.29
8/28/2015 Symbol Arts Department Coins unspecified $4,750
10/27/2014 Nate Anderson John Redmon The Magicians mind reading awards ceremony $700
1/07/2012 Ventana Resort & Hotel liquor awards banquet $5,368.13
11/19/2010 iPROMOTE  blue bags & tissue paper awards ceremony $724.13
11/29/2010 Fry’s flowers awards banquet $300
12/30/2013 Fry’s flowers/corsages awards banquet $631.86
10/12/2015 Positive Promotions “Custom Hang Around Bags” unspecified $1,350
10/12/2015 Positive Promotions Printed Torino Stainless Steel Tumblers unspecified $3,810
10/29/2015 APEX Banner awards ceremony $110
3/23/2012 High Level Marketing awards ceremony $3,380
11/3/2015 Alphagraphics wall calendars unspecified $4,525
2/21/2013 Casey Promotions “Classic Black Ball Point Pen” unspecified $3,550
11/16/2010 Symbol Arts Awards Ceremony Coin awards ceremony $3,394
12/20/2014 Moreno Digital Studios Military Tribute Video unspecified $675
12/3/2014 Moreno Films revise Military Tribute video awards ceremony $300
12/20/2012 Moreno Digital Studios Military Tribute Video unspecified $327.30
8/16/2010 Double Tree Hotel Awards Committee Day Away awards ceremony $1,835
10/14/2010 Guitar Center New Audio Equipment awards ceremony $13,463.76
12/16/2010 Double Tree Hotel awards ceremony $21,359.24
1/26/2012 Perfect Table Plan software annual awards banquet $337.95
12/22/2014 Tuxedos On Broadway tuxedo rental Karl Woolridge awards ceremony $127.95
12/22/2014 Tuxedos On Broadway tuxedo rental, socks, shoes Clarence Dupnik awards ceremony $135.90
12/22/2015 Tuxedos On Broadway tuxedo rental Josh Arnold awards ceremony $113.46
11/27/2012 Amazon Fitz costume “Big Feet PJs” adult footed pajamas w/ drop-seat awards ceremony $46.99
11/14/2012 A. Perez / singer National Anthem awards ceremony $300.00
8/5/2015 Professional Impressions Custom Laser Engraved USB Key Drives 2015 awards ceremony $4,691.54
Total $200,195.57