Source: FBI agents visited Pinal County to collect items related to former Sheriff Paul Babeu

Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 00:44:50-05

Former Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is facing renewed scrutiny from federal agents after a visit late last week.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office said the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited the office on Friday and collected items that belonged to Babeu and his staff. It is not clear which items are being reviewed by FBI agents, and PCSO said they are not involved in the investigation in any way.

Sources, which must remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the information, tell us that this is possibly connected to a current federal investigation of the sheriff's office for its handling of RICO funds. As part of that case, agents were scrutinizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in seized criminal money that was directed to a non-profit run by some PCSO employees.

When reached Monday evening, an FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

The FBI has been investigating Pinal County's RICO practices since at least early last year. ABC15 also confirmed that agents issued a subpoena for records in September. 

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 PCSO 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.

Stay with ABC15, and ABC15 Mobile for updates.