A federal investigation rocked the Pima County Sheriff's Department. It revealed years of corruption, and now KGUN9 has the documents that insiders say were in the hands of the FBI.
The former chief deputy Chris Radtke admitted that he took part in a scheme to launder half a million dollars in RICO/forfeiture funds to be used free of restrictions. RICO money was moved to the non-profit Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers account, but money had been spent that was unrelated to the SAV. Radtke faced prison time and a hefty fine but reached a plea deal that reduced the charges to misdemeanors.
New Sheriff Mark Napier told KGUN9 he was disappointed -- calling it a "super sweetheart deal." He said he would consider asking for a state investigation, but no word yet on a decision.
Months ago, KGUN9 requested all the documents connected to the case and the Sheriff's Department released them last month -- more than a thousand purchase orders, memos, checks, receipts, and ledgers that reveal exactly how the money was spent.
Records show a big chunk of the expenditures went to the annual Awards Ceremonies.
Insiders called them extravagant. The Pima County Sheriff's annual Special Awards Ceremonies attended by local dignitaries and deputies that were paid for with RICO funds -- seized money that should be used to help fight crime.
"The ceremonies were held in lavish hotels, where hundreds of people dined on expensive meals at $25 to $35 a plate and left with promotional trinkets -- purchased with RICO dollars."
Former union leader Kevin Kubitskey, one of the first whistleblowers, attended the ceremonies.
"Every chair had a bag on it. In the bag, it would contain a cup, pen, sometimes a thumb drive, sometimes a coin. Sometimes a coaster or other little trinkets like that."
The promotional items alone added up to more than 57-thousand dollars over seven years.
Documents and receipts reveal RICO money had also been used for entertainment -- jazz music, singers, a magic and mind reading show, and a Santa Sleigh.
At least a thousand dollars had been spent on rented tuxedos worn by command staff and a costume for a popular cartoonist. An evening dress was purchased -- not rented -- violating RICO guidelines. RICO guidelines stipulate funds cannot be used for personal benefit.
Former U.S Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who works in the Sheriff's Department, said while sitting in a meeting with senior command and staff in 2015, he became concerned about the costs.
He told them, "This is going to be very expensive, it'll cost $30-40,000, and we don't have any money." Carmona said Sheriff Chris Nanos told him -- not to worry -- senior command had it covered.
And expenses soared -- increasing from $25,000 dollars in 2009 to $58,000 in 2015.
And those expensive meals through the years?
Buying food is not allowed under federal forfeiture guidelines -- except during law enforcement operations.
"The most basic Deputy knows after reading the RICO statute and understanding RICO law that RICO dollars are seized dollars and cannot be used towards food," said Sgt. Kubitskey.
Total costs reached around $250,000 -- a quarter of a million dollars -- that could have gone to crime fighting. Expenditures considered "Extravagant" and "Impermissible" under Rico Use Guidelines had been investigated by the F-B-I.
After Chris Radtke's indictment in October on 2016, Sheriff Nanos canceled the Special Awards Ceremony weeks later. "Not a surprise at all.
In fact, it was pretty much a joke going around. It was understood exactly why the awards ceremony was canceled," said Sgt. Kubitskey.
KGUN9 reached out to the two former sheriffs, Clarence Dupnik and Chris Nanos, but haven't received a response.
There's much more to this story that we'll reveal in the coming days and weeks.