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Criminal Prosecutions

Rio Nuevo, Turn Down Letter, Tucson, AZ

State v. Carlos Antonio Arredondo-Rosas and Gabriel Lopez-Iriarte

On January 27, 2012, a Nogales Police Department officer patrolling I-19 in Santa Cruz County as part of the Attorney General-funded Southern Border Alliance stopped a vehicle traveling southbound for a tinted window violation. Based on various factors which led the officer to become suspicious of the occupants in the vehicle, he requested written permission to search the vehicle from both occupants, which was granted. Inside the vehicle, police found three boxes of laundry detergent that had been opened and re-sealed with glue. The investigating officers found U.S. currency totaling $399,785.00 inside the boxes. Both suspects admitted they were transporting “dirty money and being paid by individuals in Mexico to pick the money up in the United States and transport it back to Mexico. In June, 2012, both defendants were sentenced to three years in prison.

State v. Hector Fuentes et al AKA

Metal Management: Sims Metal Management (SMM) is a multi-national metals and electronics recycling company. SMM buys obsolete metal from customers who generate metal waste. SMM then processes ferrous metal for resale via a variety of methods. After numerous complaints against SMM, TPD conducted an undercover operation involving SMM, with an undercover officer delivering cars, each with more obvious indicia of being stolen. The sting culminated in the undercover agent delivering a car that the UC outright told SMM employees was stolen. The investigation showed that SMM employees knowingly accepted and crushed each car delivered by the officer, despite the indicia of theft and stolen VINs. TPD, DPS, ADOT, and PPD executed a search warrant on August 23, 2011 at SMM and discovered an additional five stolen vehicles and seizing 50 boxes of titles and sales tickets. In total, 17 stolen vehicles were processed by SMM. In settlement of the criminal case, Sims provided $150,000 to the Arizona Auto Theft Task Force to fund a two-year statewide program to implement training and accountable procedures to prevent receiving of stolen property by heavy metal crushers and recyclers.

State v. Gary Kent Allen

Allen operated “Christian Credit Consultants” which advertised in local community churches as a debt-management business promising to help “negotiate your debt and pay off your debt at substantially reduced values.” The Defendant made no attempt either to pay the victims’ debts or to negotiate debt on their behalf and, instead, that he defrauded known victims of over $267,000. At sentencing after guilty pleas, the State emphasized the Defendant’s abuse of his religious affiliation and his manipulation of his victims’ religious fellowship, and that many victims still were struggling with the devastating financial fallout resulting from the fraud. Despite the Defendant’s efforts to mitigate his conduct, the trial court followed the State’s recommendation and sentenced Allen to a total of 13.5 years: an aggravated 12.5 year term on the first fraud count to be followed by a consecutive one-year jail sentence and probation on the second fraud count.

State v. Wendy Wren & Thomas Collier

The defendants used their “Arizona on EBay” business to defraud over 100 victims. They would accept merchandise from clients to post on EBay. The defendants subsequently refused to either return the items or remit payment to the clients for items sold. Collier pled guilty to Attempted Fraudulent Schemes, a Class 3 felony, and was sentenced to 5 years probation. Wren, who led and managed the fraudulent activity, pled guilty to Fraudulent Schemes and Theft, Class 2 and 3 felonies respectively. She was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, followed by 7 years of probation. The defendants were ordered to pay nearly $75,000 in restitution. In accordance with the terms of the plea agreement, Wren paid $35,000 of that restitution prior to sentencing.

State v. Joseph J. Riley

Defendant Joseph H. Riley, Jr. perpetrated a scheme to defraud multiple beneficiaries of the Estate of Mary A. Riley by using his position as personal representative of the Estate to withdraw more than $100,000 from multiple bank accounts of entities controlled by the Estate. Violating his fiduciary duties to the Estate beneficiaries (his siblings), the Defendant periodically withdrew significant sums of money between December 2003 and November 2005 from the bank accounts of the Estate of Mary A. Riley and business entities owned by the Estate, including: San Juan Realty Company, Homesites, Inc., and the Guadalupe Land & Investment Company. After a guilty plea, at sentencing the Defendant was ordered: to pay $114,750.00 in restitution, to serve 104 days in jail as 52 consecutive weekends; disbarred from the practice of law; and revoked from membership in the national fraternity of Elks.

State v. Phillips et al

Four defendants operated a criminal enterprise organized specifically to victimize businesses in Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa Counties. The defendants stole merchandise including alcohol and cigarettes from various Circle K stores and then would then resell the stolen property on the black market. Knowing the Circle K non-confrontation policy, Defendants would walk into stores during normal business hours, go directly behind the counter or into the storage room, and fill trashcans with cartons of cigarettes and other merchandise. Defendants would then take the merchandise to an apartment where a co-defendant Lee illegally operated a “grocery store.” The total amount stolen was approximately $43,771.42. This case was prosecuted by the Section because of its statewide jurisdiction authority and nuisance to multiple counties. The Defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

State v. Palafox et al

In April, 2012, DPS stopped a vehicle on I-10 with approximately 130 forged credit cards and fake identifications. The fake identifications had the defendants’ photos, but had false names matching the names on the forged credit cards. The defendants admitted using the cards in Arizona for purchasing items to take back to Mexico. All three defendants were charged with conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, illegal control of an enterprise, forgery of a credit card, taking identity of another, and unlawful possession of a scanning devise. Each defendant was in the U.S. on a temporary visa. Prosecution is on-going.

State v. Kristella Brandenburg

The defendant was convicted in March, 2012 after a jury trial on charges related to financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. The victims were a vulnerable, elderly couple. At the time of the offense, the husband was 86 and suffered from dementia and the wife was 88. The State alleged that the Defendant, while ostensibly “assisting” her vulnerable elderly neighbors with some paperwork related to their long-term care insurance, instead paid two of her bills over the phone and purchased three lap tops from Best Buy with the victims’ credit card. Unfortunately, as it happens so often in elder financial exploitation cases, the wife passed away while the case was pending and the husband was unavailable as a witness as he had no recollection of the events. At trial, with no victims available to contradict her, the defendant testified that she had permission of the victims to use their credit card to pay her personal bills and that the three laptops were gifts from the victims. Despite the evidentiary obstacles, the jury returned a guilty verdict on Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, a Class 2 felony and the judge sentenced her to four years probation, 30 days in jail and 1,000 hours of community service. Her nursing license also was revoked.

State v. Sergio Cordova

The Defendant was originally employed by a 95 year-old vulnerable adult at her residence as a landscaper. He insinuated himself into her good graces and began to walk her three dogs and run errands. Cordova then brought in "third-party unlicensed caregivers" to control the victim’s residence. Many of these “caretakers” were his relatives, including his own wife, to assist the victim with accounting and bill pay. He attempted to isolate the victim from her family and threatened professional certified caregivers. Cordova took advantage of the victim’s reduced mental capabilities and embezzled over $100,000. Cordova had admitted receiving $7,000 in “gifts,” in the form of $5,000 and $10,000 checks written to him from the victim between January, 2010 and December, 2010. The victim has been evaluated and determined to have dementia and a licensed fiduciary and guardian have been appointed. The defendant pleaded guilty to Attempted Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adult, a Class 3 felony and was sentenced to probation with 312 days of jail.

State v. Jodie Burch

Hospital staff at Tucson Medical Center Tucson contacted Tucson Police Department to report an incident of suspected child abuse. The child was admitted in an altered state resembling a coma and was unresponsive. Medical staff suspected that the child’s mother had forced the child to ingest a dangerous drug which would account for her presented symptoms. After lengthy proceedings to evaluating the defendant’s mental status, she entered two guilty pleas to child abuse. She was sentenced to 7 years in prison followed by a consecutive term of supervised probation.

Used Car Lot Seizures, Ongoing

  • 21 defendants indicted on felony conspiracy, trafficking charges
  • Seized 11 used car lots, 400 vehicles (worth $1.5 million)
  • Used cars from Valley dealerships used to move humans, drugs across state
  • Sophisticated operation provided phony titles to cars to avoid detection
  • Year-long investigation conducted by the Financial Crimes Task Force, DOJ