More than a month after a former Pima County sheriff’s official revealed in federal court a two-decade criminal conspiracy to misuse federal funds, the sheriff is asking the state to step in and conduct a second investigation.
In September, former Chief Deputy Christopher Radtke was indicted on several felony counts of conspiracy to launder money and theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. In February, Radtke accepted a plea agreement for three misdemeanor counts of theft of federal funds and was sentenced in May to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $3,000 in fines.
Sheriff Mark Napier said that after the sentencing, a number of employees in the department and community members expressed concern over what they saw as a lenient sentence, leading him to request the state investigation, according to a news release from the department.
“After extensively conferring with the FBI, obtaining legal advice and doing considerable research, it appears there may be another avenue available that could be explored,” Napier wrote in the release, saying laws allow for a second state-level investigation.
“Some in the community and within my department feel that others may have culpability, and the sanction provided was inadequate given the scope and apparent vast nature of the offense,” Napier said.
“The present question is whether this investigation completely addressed all criminal conduct and bad actors from a state perspective.”
A state review of the department’s use of federal funds from the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO, will allow the department to put to rest any remaining speculation on the matter, as well as allowing the department to say it has exhausted every avenue available, Napier said.
A review by the state will also ensure public confidence in the department and its resolution of the matter, he said.
During his court case, Radtke said the diversion of RICO money for other unapproved uses had been occurring at the Sheriff’s Department for nearly 20 years. The investigation revealed that several members of the department were involved in practices to divert RICO money intended for the sheriff’s auxiliary volunteers fund, which was intended for crime-fighting and prevention. No one else was charged in the federal case.
Napier has asked the Pima County Attorney’s Office to review the evidence to see if any state laws were broken, in addition to the federal statutes that were already addressed.
Napier defeated then-Sheriff Chris Nanos in the November 2016 general election. Nanos was appointed sheriff in August 2015 after Sheriff Clarence Dupnik retired after 35 years in office.
It’s possible the County Attorney’s Office could recuse itself, in which case Napier will ask that the Arizona attorney general review the case.
“I have received Sheriff Napier’s request and am in the process of evaluating it,” Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall wrote in an email to the Star. “I cannot comment further at this time, given that this involves a matter at the investigation stage.”
The FBI’s investigation into the department’s use of funds began after the Star’s November 2015 story about cafes inside sheriff’s headquarters and the Pima County jail being run by Radtke’s niece without a contract and rent-free.
Public-records requests revealed the department spent nearly $30,000 on the two spaces, which officials initially said was paid for by RICO money but later said came out of the department’s general fund.
As a result of the story and inquiries from Sheriff’s Department employees that followed, the FBI launched an investigation into the department’s spending, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office didn’t have enough evidence to charge anyone other than Radtke.
After the sentencing, U.S. Attorney David Backman said there was evidence that another employee was more culpable than Radtke, referring to former chief of staff Brad Gagnepain, who took his own life last summer.
The U.S. attorney’s goal in prosecuting the case was to rid the department of corruption, which Backman said had been achieved.