Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Ex-sheriff's official faces probation for misdemeanor theft charges
watchdog

Ex-sheriff's official faces probation for misdemeanor theft charges

The Sheriff Department’s former second-in-command pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft charges on Friday in federal court.

Christopher Radtke, the Pima County Sheriff Department’s former chief deputy, will be sentenced April 7 after pleading guilty to three counts of theft of government property before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Markovich.

Radtke’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors resulted in each of the three counts being for theft of less than $1,000. He is facing up to one year of probation and an agreement to never work as a law enforcement officer or with Pima County again. The sentencing agreement has to be approved by the judge.

“We have reached a just outcome in this case,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber of the District of Utah, which prosecuted the case. “This investigation and prosecution has cleaned the Pima County Sheriff’s Office of years of corruption and ensures it will not return.”

Radtke, 55, was indicted in September on one felony charge of conspiracy to launder money and seven felony charges of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to U.S District Court records.

Radtke resigned from his job two weeks after the indictment, which followed a months-long investigation by the FBI into high-ranking department officials who allegedly misused public funds, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.

The investigation revealed that Radtke embezzled roughly $500,000 that had been seized from criminals under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

RICO funds are intended to be used for crime fighting and prevention, but the indictment says Radtke was misusing those funds, making purchases that didn’t fall under those requirements.

Radtke admitted that for 18 years personnel at the Sheriff’s Department would circumvent the strict restrictions on the use of RICO funds. The officers collaborated to make it appear the department was donating the RICO money to the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers , although the funds were being used by the Sheriff’s Department, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Radtke admitted that he became part of the practice about six years ago, the release said.

The three counts of theft Radtke pleaded guilty to were associated with purchases made in 2011, 2014 and 2015, U.S. Attorney David Backman said in court Friday morning when summarizing the factual basis for Radtke’s guilty pleas.

For all three incidents, Radtke admitted to knowingly converting funds to be used by the auxiliary volunteers with the intention of depriving the owner — the U.S. government — of the use or benefit of the money or property, Backman said.

In 2011, Radtke used a sheriff’s auxiliary volunteers’ check for $926 to reimburse the department’s award banquet. The rest of the check was used to pay for a restaurant bill and a new microwave for the break room at sheriff’s headquarters, Backman said.

Radtke also admitted to using the auxiliary volunteers’ credit card in 2014, to buy two model airplanes for himself and an unnamed colleague, at a cost of $599 plus $90 for shipping. Five days later, he used the card again to pay $50 rush shipping for the airplanes, Backman said.

In 2015, Radtke used another auxiliary volunteers’ check, this time to pay an artist $500 to make a menu for the chalkboard at sheriff’s headquarters, owned by his niece, Nikki Thompson, Backman said.

The FBI investigation began after a November 2015 Star story about Thompson running cafes inside the sheriff’s headquarters and the jail without a county contract and rent-free.

Public-records requests revealed the Sheriff’s Department spent more than $30,000 on renovations and equipment, the Star reported in November 2015.

While the indictment listed a conspiracy charge and mentioned “other persons known and unknown to the grand jury,” no one else has been charged in connection with the investigation.

“I’m a little concerned about the plea agreement being for three misdemeanors, when he was charged with seven felonies,” said Sgt. Kevin Kubitskey, chairman of the Pima County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and one of several department employees who came forward to the FBI to corroborate the allegations of misuse of funds. “The men and women of the PCDSA want to know why, and we’re hoping that some explanation is given to us.”

While it was a relief to finally hear Radtke admit wrongdoing and acknowledge this practice has been going on for 18 years, Kubitskey was also concerned the conspiracy wasn’t addressed in the plea.

“I hope that the U.S. attorney realizes the jeopardy people were in by giving all of this information,” Kubitskey said. “I worry that people may not come forward in future situations like this, because of this type of low plea.”

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier was disheartened by Radtke’s admission that the illicit financial practices had been going on for nearly two decades, and said that the department is working hard to move forward and restore the public’s trust.

“It’s disappointing that such a long-existing conspiracy involving criminal corruption is coming to and end with three misdemeanor convictions and a year of probation,” Napier said.

When asked if any changes had been made to the way in which RICO money is requested and disbursed, Napier’s answer was brief.

“Simply put, we’re following the law.”

C

ontact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191.


Subscribe to stay connected to Tucson. A subscription helps you access more of the local stories that keep you connected to the community.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News