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Corruption in Arpaio's Office: AZ County Continues Paying Convicted Sheriffs Sgt.

Corruption in Arpaios Office: AZ County Continues Paying Convicted Sheriffs Sgt.

by Gary Hunter

On August 2, 2005, Maricopa County Sheriff's Sgt. Leo Richard Driving Hawk, Sr. pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in connection with a $78 million swindle perpetrated by his father's bank.

For over three years Driving Hawk was a vice president at the United States Reservation Bank and Trust while he simultaneously was employed as a member of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Internal Affairs Division. What has raised eyebrows is that for over four months after his guilty plea Driving Hawk remained on the sheriff's payroll, receiving a $60,000 annual salary with Arpaio's apparent blessing. According to the Maricopa Co. Sheriff's Department, Driving Hawk remained employed with the department until the end of December 2005.

The tough-on-crime sheriff has remained conspicuously silent on the subject, but one of his aides, Jack MacIntyre, defended the continuing paychecks as an attempt to avoid future liability. We want to make sure we cross all the ts and dot all the is so theres no lawsuit that costs even more, he insisted.

Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has authored books and runs a website on police accountability. He contends that Driving Hawks guilty plea was enough to warrant termination.

Certainly, if hes admitted hes guilty, that would be sufficient. He probably should be terminated and immediately, said Walker.

MacIntyre said Arpaio's office was waiting until the judge accepted the plea and an internal investigation was complete. Arpaio's investigation began in late August 2005, more than two weeks after Driving Hawk pled guilty. According to the Sonoran News, however, Driving Hawk was named as a defendant in multiple cases involving securities fraud as early as April 2002.

Bob Forry, compliance manager for the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, pointed out that misconduct alone is grounds for termination. There is no legal requirement to await a conviction.

Critics claim that Arpaio was hesitant to sever ties with Driving Hawk because the convicted sergeant was part of the sheriff's inner circle. They claim that Arpaio uses his cadre of deputies to retaliate against political enemies, and speculate that actions against union leaders, covert surveillance, and investigation and prosecution of political opponents are some of the things that Driving Hawk knows about Arpaio's operations.

MacIntyre denies that Driving Hawk was part of Arpaio's inner circle, but personnel files, obtained under Arizona's open records law, describe Driving Hawk as having been hand-selected by the sheriff and/or the chief deputy for the Internal Affairs Division. Records also reveal that Driving Hawk and Arpaio regularly communicated on sensitive investigations and other matters, including security issues, and that Driving Hawk was one of the few supervisors who routinely reports directly to the sheriff.

Leo's father, Edward James Driving Hawk, Sr., founded the United States Reservation Bank and Trust in 1992. In 2001 the bank initiated what the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) called a Ponzi scheme. Investors were promised profits of 20%, and early investors were paid with money from the investors who followed.

Leo pleaded guilty to charges of failing to notify authorities of the fraud and lying to at least one investor. The charges further stated that Leo siphoned more than $2.5 million from the bank for no apparent reason, personally received $216,258, and diverted other money to casino and racehorse operations owned by the family. Edward Driving Hawk, Sr. entered a guilty plea on Sept. 7, 2006, and his sentencing hearing is set for November 13.

Leo Driving Hawk's involvement in the $78 million scam is suspected to extend back at least 32 years. Arpaio became aware of the allegations raised by the SEC in 2003, yet Driving Hawk continued to receive glowing commendations and promotions. In January 2005 he was given yet another pay raise, which he continued to enjoy for months after he pleaded guilty. Leo is scheduled to be sentenced on April 16, 2007; he faces up to three years in prison.

Given Arpaio's penchant for openly demeaning convicted felons, including those who reside in his infamous tent jail, his silence in this case is surprising if not suspicious. However it is typical in that only poor criminals warrant Arpaio's wrath while the wealthy and well connected, like former Arizona governor Fife Symington, get kid glove treatment. Arpaio's most recent antics included parading prisoners through the streets of Phoenix in pink underwear and pink handcuffs. But apparently it took over four months for America's Toughest Sheriff to find a pink slip for one of his own employees who had admitted to committing felony crimes.

Sources: The Arizona Republic, Sonoran News

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