Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orange County, CA Sheriff Under Fire for Bribes

Newport businessman aided sheriff's conspiracy, court says
By Michael Miller

Corona del Mar businessman Donald Haidl provided thousands of dollars in illegal payments to Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona in exchange for an assistant sheriff job and special treatment for his family and friends, according to an indictment unsealed today.

The indictment of Carona, filed in October 2005 in United States District Court, alleges that Haidl repeatedly made payments to Carona that the sheriff failed to declare, made additional payments to a woman identified as Carona’s mistress, and rewarded Carona for his support by placing him on a previously nonexistent board of directors for a company owned by Haidl’s uncle. The court also unsealed a document showing that Haidl pleaded guilty in March to filing a fraudulent tax return and could face up to three years in federal prison.

Haidl, who was not indicted along with Carona due to his plea agreement, admitted to concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in his 2002 income tax return and using the money to pay legal fees for his son. In the agreement, he admitted making illegal payments to Carona and former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who has entered a plea agreement of his own.

Haidl is scheduled to be sentenced in United States District Court on June 23, 2008.

“Nobody is above the law, including public officials,” Debra D. King, a special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement after the court records were unsealed. “Crimes committed by these figures violate the public trust.

Further, the indictment announced today helps to assure the public that their officials cannot use their office for their own financial enrichment or personal political gain.”

The grand jury charged that Carona, who has been Orange County’s sheriff since 1999, awarded Haidl an assistant sheriff job that he lacked the qualifications for, gave Haidl’s family and friends positions as reserve deputies and helped Haidl’s son get preferential treatment in connection with a 2003 drug offense — a favor that the indictment refers to as a “Get out of Jail Free card.”

The defendants in the case are Carona, his wife Deborah, and Debra Victoria Hoffman, an attorney whom the grand jury calls Carona’s longtime mistress.

According to the indictment, Haidl not only provided the sheriff with money and other contributions, but also repeatedly gave funds to Hoffman at Carona’s request. In 1998, Haidl reportedly gave $110,000 to Hoffman’s law firm and later, along with Carona and Jaramillo, diverted legal cases to the firm to help pay off the loan.

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