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Former chief deputy pleads guilty in PCSD money laundering case

Ratke admits 18 years of corruption in PCSD
Posted at 11:18 AM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 22:09:32-05
The chief deputy indicted on charges of misusing federal funds changes his plea to guilty. Chris Radtke admits the Pima County Sheriff's Department engaged In a criminal conspiracy for 18 years.
 
Chris Radtke, who had faced 7 felony charges and stiff fines and sentence if convicted, pleaded guilty to 3 misdemeanors before a federal judge on Friday. This follows an FBI probe that began over a year ago after whistleblowers came forward with claims that RICO money bankrolled items not permitted by law totaling more than $500,000.

KGUN9 also launched an investigation into the claims before the grand jury handed up the indictment.
 
The grand jury in Utah indicted Radtke on conspiracy to commit money laundering and theft of public funds.
Radtke pleaded not guilty in October and his defense attorney filed a notice weeks ago that he intended to argue Radtke was just following orders.        

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah prosecuted the case and FBI special agents conducted the investigation. A plea deal was reached between the U.S Attorney and Ratke's defense attorney and they appeared before the judge in a plea hearing where Ratke admitted guilt. 
 

The Department of Justice issued a press release and the U.S attorney assigned to the case also stated in court that "approximately 18 years until July 2016, officers at the Pima County Sheriff's Department engaged in a scheme to launder RICO/forfeiture funds to circumvent the strict restrictions on the use of those funds. The officers collaborated together to make it appear that the Sheriff's Department was donating the RICO/forfeiture funds to the Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers (SAV), although the funds were actually used by the Sheriff's Department.

Radtke admitted that he became involved in this practice roughly six years ago while assigned as the Administrative Services Division Commander.  
 
He said that at that time, his supervisors explained to him that although the RICO funds were donated to the SAV, the funds were actually used by the Sheriff's Department for purposes unrelated to the SAV. After the funds were laundered this way, the Sheriff's Department could use the funds free of any restrictions, according to court documents. Officers would use checks and credit cards from the SAV to make it appear that the SAVs were using the funds.
 
Radtke admitted that for about five and a half years, until July 2016, he participated in the scheme. He approved internal Sheriff's Department memoranda requesting the "donation" of RICO/forfeiture funds to the SAV. He also participated in deciding which SAV accounts the fund would go into and how the funds would be spent. He acknowledged that by engaging in this conduct, he violated the law."
 
One of the first F-B-I whistleblowers, union president Sgt. Kevin Kubistkey, was also in court for the plea hearing. He said he was disappointed with the plea deal. "We know there's other involved. And to see that the conspiracy charge was not addressed today raises some question." 
Cavazos: "He did admit guilt that this was going on for 18 years." 
Kubitskey: "That was a relief."
 
Radtke pleaded guilty to 3 misdemeanor counts of public theft.
Count 1: Radtke admitted that on May 12, 2011, he participated in using a Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers check for $926.09 to reimburse the Sheriff's Department special awards fund.  He admitted that he requested part of that reimbursement for a $250 restaurant bill and tip, and other Sheriff's Department employees requested $109.09 in reimbursement for a new microwave oven for the breakroom at the Sheriff's Department
Count 2: Radtke admitted that on July 24, 2014, he participated in using the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers credit card to purchase two model airplanes for himself and a colleague for $599.90 and to pay $90 for shipping.  On July 29, 2014, he participated in using the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers credit card to pay $50 for a rush shipping charge for the model airplanes.
Count 3: Radtke admitted that on April 20, 2015, he participated in using a Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers check to pay an artist $500 to create a menu for the chalkboard at the café at the Sheriff’s Department, even though the café was owned and operated by his niece, not by the Sheriff’s Department. 

The press release noted that in each of the three incidents, Radtke admitted that he knowingly converted the funds to the use of the Sheriff's Department with the intention of depriving the owner of the use or benefit of the money or property.

Both side have agreed to a sentence of one year probation with the special condition that Radtke can never work with Pima County or in law enforcement again. The judge doesn't have to accept the agreement and he told Radtke in court that he didn't know him and he'll have to take part in probationary meetings with staff before the sentencing. 

 
According to the press release, U.S Attorney John Huber of the District of Utah stated, "We have reached a just outcome in this case.  This investigation and prosecution has cleaned the Pima County Sheriff's Office of years of corruption and ensures it will not return. We recognize and commend the excellent work that the FBI in Tucson did on this important case." 
 
But it's interesting to note that the FBI is silent -- no statement from the Tucson division was included in the press release -- unusual in these types of cases.

KGUN 9 reached out to the FBI's Tucson Division and was told that they cannot comment until the sentencing scheduled for April 7th.
 
More reaction


One of the first whistleblowers, former U.S. Surgeon General and current deputy sheriff Dr. Richard Carmona, told KGUN9, "I am grateful to the FBI and our media for exposing the hidden corruption in our PCSD. Mr. Radtke and his fellow PCSD co-conspirators have breached their integrity, violated the public's trust and embarrassed all our honest deputies, corrections officers and civilian employees. I look forward to full transparency so the public is reassured that we have drained the swamp."

Recently elected Sheriff Mark Napier, who took over the top spot in January, told KGUN9 that he is disappointed in the plea agreement. 

He released this statement:

"The Pima County Sheriff's Department fully supports the judicial process and understands prosecutorial discretion. We are grateful for the efforts of the United States Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the federal corruption inquiry which resulted in the indictment and prosecution of Chris Radtke for his misuse of Pima County Sheriff's Department RICO funds. 
We would be remiss if we did not express our disappointment that Mr. Radtke's egregious criminal violation of public trust resulted in only a misdemeanor plea agreement with potentially an extremely light sanction. Mr. Radtke admits the existence of a sustained criminal conspiracy that spanned 18 years, with his involvement being approximately six years. This activity shocks the conscience. It violates the honorable standards of law enforcement held by the 1,500 men and women of our department. This trust is vital to the performance of our duties. 
Since 1865, the Pima County Sheriff's Department has served this community. The Department is filled with good men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis. This is simply unforgivable misconduct on the part of a few. We now need to close this regrettable chapter in the otherwise distinguished history of our agency. We commit ourselves to move forward, follow the law, provide excellent service to the people of our county, and restore the public trust." 

KGUN9 will continue to follow any developments.