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Sources: FBI issues subpoena for records tied to use of RICO funds by Sheriff Babeu, PCSO

Posted at 8:51 PM, Sep 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-08 10:12:04-04

The FBI has issued a subpoena related to the use of RICO funds by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and his office, according to sources. 

The sources, which include a county official, said the subpoena was recently sent to the Arizona Public Safety Foundation, a unique non-profit closely tied to the sheriff’s office that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in seized criminal funds.

One source said he believed the subpoena was issued as part of a grand jury proceeding.

The Arizona Public Safety Foundation didn’t immediately return a call and email to ABC15.

In a short response, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Clark sent the following email: “PCSO has not received any notification of a subpoena being served on our office by the FBI.”

ABC15 emailed PCSO to clarify if the sheriff’s office has been notified of a subpoena being served on the Arizona Public Safety Foundation or another county agency. So far, PCSO has not responded.

RICO seizures and spending by Sheriff Babeu, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and county attorney’s office have been heavily criticized by several watchdog groups during the past year.

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union and international law firm Perkins Coie jointly filed a lawsuit against the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. The lawsuit claimed the county agencies were misusing RICO funds and funneling money through the Arizona Public Safety Foundation.

The Arizona Public Safety Foundation was once run out of the sheriff’s office. It has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from PCSO in recent years.

In February, the Goldwater Institute, a conservative Arizona watchdog group, echoed concerns over Pinal County’s RICO spending and requested files from the sheriff and county attorney.

In a February interview with ABC15, Goldwater attorney Jared Blanchard said they decided to look at Pinal County after questions were raised about funds being used to promote Babeu in a way that could benefit his congressional campaign.

In March, ABC15 spoke with multiple people who said FBI agents were interviewing people related to RICO funds given to the Arizona Public Safety Foundation.

At the time, PCSO Deputy Chief Tim Gaffney claimed that an FBI official told them that their office did not have any open investigations. Gaffney didn’t identify the FBI official.

In defense of PCSO’s use of RICO funds, Gaffney also said: “Any request for RICO Funding by our office as you are aware has to be submitted in writing to either the County Attorney’s Office if it is State RICO Funds.”

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com.