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Original “Constitutional Sheriff” Accused of Embezzling from Arizona Anti-Vax Group

by Kevin W. Bliss

In a black eye for right-wing anti-vaccine group America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), Chairman Richard Mack – the former Sheriff of Arizona’s Graham County – is accused of taking an unauthorized $350,000 transfer from the organization’s bank account, preventing payroll from going out for the month of January 2023.

AFLDS lawyers say Mack is trying to maintain a position of authority in the organization by brokering a backroom deal with founder and ex-chairman Dr. Simone Gold, who found a fundraising sweet spot among those opposed to COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccines. She also promoted alternative treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which the federal Centers for Disease Control said have no efficacy against the disease.

In 2022, Gold brought Mack and Joey Gilbert, the failed Nevada GOP candidate for governor that year, onto the AFLDS board, before she spent 60 days in the Federal Detention Center in Miami for trespassing at the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection on January 6, 2021. The board and Gilbert, who took over as AFLDS chief, then sued Gold in Arizona state court, accusing her of misusing organization funds for a $3.6 million Naples mansion, as well as luxury vehicles, private plane travel, a private security guard and a personal housekeeper.

But then Gilbert faced financial and organizational obstacles of his own. Enter Mack as his replacement. He is founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an “extremist” group that “endeavors to radicalize county sheriffs across the country into believing they are the ultimate law enforcement authority, able to enforce, ignore or break state and federal law as they chose.” As NPR reported, “[t]he basic idea is that a county sheriff’s authority should supersede the federal government’s.” [See: PLN, Apr. 2023, p.62.]

On April 1, 2023, AFLDS lawyers filed a police report accusing Mack of illegally transferring $350,000 from one account at Chase Bank to another accessible only by Mack and an individual unknown to AFLDS named Dewey Gardner. Mack insisted the confusion had an easy explanation: He was merely trying to protect organization funds.

“There’s nothing to be confused about,” countered AFLDS Oversight Committee Chair Kevin Jenkins. “He’s absolutely a criminal.”

Meanwhile, in a lawsuit filed by AFLDS lawyers against Gold, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy J. Thomason agreed on January 27, 2023, that claiming she could use donated funds to purchase the Florida mansion – even as an “investment” – was “patently absurd.” But the judge also took a shot at Gilbert, whose short-lived plan to pay himself a $2.4 million annual salary “smacks of self-dealing,” the judge said.

No charges have yet been filed against Mack.

Source: Daily Beast

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