Prosecutors say they found no state or federal criminal violations in the travel spending and handling of inmates’ cash by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office.
Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, told a county official in a letter Monday that the cash that inmates have in their possession when they are arrested was mostly accounted for and that there was no evidence of embezzlement.
But Burke said prosecutors believe that the sheriff’s office’s handling of inmate cash between 2006 and 2008 was questionable and suggested that Arpaio’s office may have violated its financial duties as a manager of money.
Jack MacIntyre, deputy chief for Arpaio, said Monday’s letter is another instance where prosecutors have cleared the sheriff’s office. In June, federal prosecutors said they wouldn’t be prosecuting sheriff’s officials over extradition spending.
MacIntyre said Burke couldn’t resist taking unfair swipes at Arpaio’s office in the letter when he should have merely announced his decision not to prosecute sheriff’s officials. “You may not like how someone balances their checkbook, but that’s not the duty of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” MacIntyre said.
Federal prosecutors have conducted a grand jury investigation of Arpaio on abuse of power allegations since at least early 2010.
The investigation is secret, but a top county official has said that he told the grand jurors that Arpaio used his law enforcement powers to try to intimidate county employees in a dispute between the sheriff’s office and county officials. No charges have been filed from the federal investigation.
County officials have also sent federal prosecutors their finding that Arpaio’s office misspent $99.5 million over eight years. The money came from a sales tax dedicated to running jails and a fund for running the commissary that sells household items to inmates. There has been no word from prosecutors about whether that spending was criminal.
Burke’s letter Monday focused on only travel spending and the handling of inmate cash.
Burke said in his letter to County Manager David Smith that Arpaio’s office may have mismanaged inmates’ cash between 2006 and 2008 when it appears it didn’t consistently deposit inmate cash and instead refunded prisoners with whatever cash was on hand.
The prosecutor said the sheriff’s office changed its policy after it failed to have enough money on hand during several occasions where it had to repay departing inmates. The policy now is to deposit inmates’ cash into a bank account.
County officials had also raised concerns about whether the sheriff’s office violated county travel policies and had excessive travel spending.
Burke noted that county officials had said Arpaio’s office had a history of failing to comply with county travel rules, but didn’t allege any violation of law.
“We have found no evidence to lead us to believe, at this time, that individuals at (the sheriff’s office) were using county travel funds solely for personal use without any law enforcement purpose,” Burke wrote.