My Turn: Criminal money is put to good use

Sheriff Paul Babeu photo: Ross Franklin

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 9:14 am

Recently you may have seen in the news that the ACLU plans to sue the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County attorney, Pinal County clerk of the court and the Pinal County Superior Court. This is the same organization that in 2012 claimed there were insects and worms inside of the water faucets at the Pinal County jail. None of our staff could find the insects or worms, nor were there any other complaints from local citizens of “insects and worms” in their water lines, but of course it makes for great headlines.

Their latest lawsuit claims employees of Pinal County unlawfully seized the property used during the commission of a burglary and then used the proceeds a “slush fund.”

Here is what happened with the case which the ACLU conveniently omits from their public release of the lawsuit. Christopher Martin (age 20) has already been arrested numerous times by PCSO for crimes including: theft, shoplifting, probation violation and trespassing. Martin and two other friends decided they would cut the chain-link fence at 1 a.m. in the morning to Johnson Utilities and steal a truck hood and tonneau cover from a truck belonging to the utility company. They then installed both of the items onto the truck that Christopher Martin said belonged to him. The vehicle was registered to his mother, but Christopher Martin readily admitted to detectives it was his truck, and he is the one who drives it.

All three were later arrested for the crimes and Martin was booked into the Pinal County jail for burglary, possession of stolen property and criminal damage.

His truck was seized under the Arizona RICO laws. PCSO followed the proper process outlined by law. The seizure was reviewed by a Pinal County Superior Court judge, and he signed off on the forfeiture of the truck. The truck was then sold at an auction.

Over the past seven years, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has donated $1.2 million of seized criminal money from cases just like this to support youth programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, YMCA, high school graduation night lock-in events, youth sports as well as veterans groups, local food banks, victims assistance programs and the Home of Home in Casa Grande.

The primary job of law enforcement is to protect our citizens. We are doing just that by using criminal money we have seized from drug dealers and other criminals and reinvesting the money in programs to better the quality of life in Pinal County. As long as the bad guys keep trying to make a living through committing crimes, we will continue to provide this type of funding to organizations that restore victims and help keep our youth free from drugs, criminal activity and gangs.


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