Program Counsel, NAGTRI Center for Ethics and Public IntegrityCoeditor, The Anticorruption Manual
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) Training Unit is offering a Financial Investigations Fundamentals Seminar Remote Series from February 28 to March 2, 2023. Nine remote webinars will cover a variety of topics. The program is available only to government attorneys and members of law enforcement. MLARS also has in-person trainings primarily for federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers, and sometimes is able to allow state or local prosecutors or law enforcement officers to join. For more information about MLARS trainings, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Gift Law Map and Summary Table: CEPI’s website offers an interactive map and sortable table displaying the types of statutes that govern when a public official may or may not accept a gift. The gift statutes apply to instances where a thing of value is given to an official without a clear quid pro quo and without adequate consideration given in return. They tend to fall into three different categories, which are shown in the map and table as: general restrictions, source-based restrictions, and intent-based restrictions. Many states have more than one type of gift restriction.
The Anticorruption Manual: A Guide for State Prosecutors: CEPI’s comprehensive Anticorruption Manual was published in August 2021. This is the first publication in thirty years to guide prosecutors who investigate and charge public corruption crimes. It is the first-ever book designed to address the needs of state and local corruption prosecutors. The book is available for purchase; members of the attorney general community should log into to their NAAG accounts to access a discount code, and other prosecutors should email NAAG communications at email@example.com for their discount code. A free sample chapter addressing judicial corruption is available for download. A series of articles further describes the purpose and contents of the manual.
Former Coles County Assistant State’s Attorney Arrested on 32 Bribery, Misconduct Charges: Brady Allen, a former assistant state’s attorney for Coles County, Illinois, was charged with 9 counts of bribery, one count of witness harassment, 21 counts of official misconduct, and one count of witness intimidation. Allen allegedly had inappropriate communications with female defendants, soliciting sexual contact, photos, and videos from them in exchange for preferential treatment in their pending criminal cases. Additionally, once his conduct was discovered, Allen allegedly offered to pay one female defendant to convince another not to pursue claims against him. The case was brought by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Collamore Faces over 30 Clean Election Act Violation Charges: Maine State Representative Clinton Collamore was indicted on 20 counts of aggravated forgery, 12 counts of unsworn falsification, and one count of criminal violation of the Maine Clean Election Act, which provides campaign funds to candidates who collect $5 contributions and signatures from at least 60 voters. Collamore allegedly forged signatures on forms to qualify for state campaign funding. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices investigated the case and referred it to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
Clerk Pleads No Contest in 2020 Flint-Area Ballot Sabotage: Kathy Funk, former clerk for Flint Township, Michigan, pleaded no contest to misconduct in office for sabotaging a ballot box after the August 2020 primary election, in which she was a successful candidate, so that the ballots would not be eligible for recount. Funk had won that election by 79 votes out of 5,300. After the election, Funk contacted police to report a break-in at Flint Township Hall and said a seal on a ballot cannister had been damaged during the break-in. In pleading no contest, Funk admitted that she damaged the seal. The case was brought by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
Former Providence City Council Candidate Pleads Not Guilty to Campaign Finance Charges: Gerard Catala, former Providence (Rhode Island) City Council candidate was charged with failing to file two required campaign finance reports relating to his candidacy in a 2022 election. The paperwork was due both 28 days and a week before the primary election, but has not yet been filed, according to the allegations. The case was brought by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.
1 Current, 1 Former North Providence Officer Charged with Embezzlement: Two police officers for North Providence, Rhode Island, former Lieutenant Dennis Stone and current Detective Christopher Petteruti, were indicted on charges of embezzlement. Stone was charged with three counts of embezzlement over one hundred dollars and six counts of filing a false tax return. Petteruti was charged with two counts of embezzlement over one hundred dollars. The defendants served as members of the executive board of the North Providence Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and allegedly used their position to embezzle union funds for their personal expenses. The case was brought by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.
Henry Wilkins IV Sentenced to Prison in Major Bribery Scandal: Former Arkansas state Senator Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Wilkins previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted taking $80,000 in bribes in exchange for steering state money to certain healthcare providers.
Former L.A. City Councilman José Huizar Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy, Tax Evasion: José Huizar, former City Councilmember in Los Angeles, California from 2005 to 2020, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of tax evasion. Huizar admitted to operating his council office as an enterprise engaging in a pay-to-play scheme giving favorable treatment to real estate developers who paid bribes and gave other benefits to Huizar and other city officials. Huizar has agreed to forfeit $129,000 in cash that was found in his home and the government will seek more than $1 million in restitution. Huizar also agreed to a minimum of nine years in prison.
Former Adelanto Mayor Set to Plead Guilty to Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Support of Marijuana Business: Richard Allen Kerr, former mayor of Adelanto, California, agreed to plead guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud. Kerr admitted to using his position to pass ordinances authorizing marijuana cultivation, marijuana distribution, and retail sales of marijuana in exchange for bribes and kickbacks in the form of $57,500 in cash, gifts, donations to a charity, and donations to Kerr’s election campaign.
Ex-State Democratic Party Leader Who Helped FBI in Anaheim Probe Agrees to Plead Guilty to Wire Fraud: Melahat Rafiei, a political consultant in Orange County, California, and former secretary for the California Democratic Party and member of the Democratic National Committee, pleaded guilty to attempted wire fraud. Rafiei admitted that she told a cannabis company owner that she would work to pass a marijuana-related ordinance in exchange for a payment of $300,000 and she did not disclose to that client that she was already working on passing the same ordinance for a different client. Rafiei was also untruthful with the prospective client about how she would use the funds.
Rodrigo Santos Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges: Rodrigo Santos, former president of the Department of Building Inspection Commission in San Francisco, California, pleaded guilty to ten counts of bank fraud, one count of honest services wire fraud, one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation, and five counts of tax evasion. After serving on the commission, Santos ran a private company to help clients through the permitting process. The bank fraud charges are based on Santos soliciting checks from clients for the purpose of paying for permitting and for his company’s services, but then altering the checks and depositing them in his personal account. Santos also arranged for clients to pay a senior building inspector in exchange for favorable official action from that inspector. Santos also admitted to sending fraudulent information to the FBI to obstruct its investigation and to intentionally omitting income on his tax returns. Santos agreed to pay over $1 million in restitution as part of his guilty plea.
2 Suburban Officers Charged with Taking Bribes, Stealing Cash and Drugs During Traffic Stops: Jarrett Snowden and Antoine Larry, two police officers for Phoenix, Illinois, were indicted on charges of bribery, conspiracy, extortion, and attempted extortion for allegedly demanding bribes from drivers during traffic stops in exchange for avoiding criminal charges. Specifically, when the officers would find illegal guns, drugs, or other contraband during traffic stops, they would allegedly demand cash payments to reduce, drop, or decline to press charges.
Former State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson Sentenced to 22 Months in Prison: Former Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson was sentenced to 22 months in prison for taking more than $140,000 from her campaign account and from the state Democratic Party account to use on personal expenses, including funding a gambling habit. Peterson previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Former State Employee Pleads Guilty to Dozens of Fraud Charges: George Martinez, former supervisor of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, pleaded guilty to 42 counts each of wire fraud and identity theft, as well as 6 counts of money laundering. Martinez will pay $1,216,205 in restitution and is subject to a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $689,797. From 2009 to 2018, Martinez fraudulently altered tax refunds to direct them to accounts he owned. He carried out the scheme by copying and altering tax returns that had already been processed or creating new fraudulent returns. In total, he obtained over $1.2 million through fraud.
Former N.Y. Election Official Pleads Guilty to 2021 Ballot Fraud: Jason Schofield, an elections commissioner for Rensselaer County Board of Elections in New York, pleaded guilty to applying for absentee ballots in the names of other registered voters. Schofield applied for the ballots using names of people who later said they had no intention to vote in the 2021 election, did not request absentee ballots, and did not know that Schofield was obtaining ballots using their names. In some instances, Schofield brought the ballots to the voters to sign so that Schofield or another person could fill in the ballot later.
Former President of NYPD Sergeants Union Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Scheme that Stole Least $600,000 from the Organization: Edward Mullins, the former president of the New York Sergeants Benevolent Association, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and admitted to stealing over $600,000 in union funds. Mullins admitted to falsely submitting union-related expense reports to receive reimbursement for personal meals and expenses. Additionally, Mullins inflated the cost of meals and expenses and kept the difference when he was reimbursed by the union. As part of his plea, Mullins agreed to pay back the stolen funds.
Former Top FBI Official Charles McGonigal Arrested over Ties to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska: Charles McGonigal, former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York who retired in 2018, was indicted in two separate indictments. An indictment brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charges McGonigal with conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, conspiring to commit money laundering, and money laundering. McGonigal allegedly provided services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch, including investigating a rival Russian oligarch in return for concealed payments from Deripaska. An indictment brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia charges McGonigal with concealment of material facts, false statements, and falsification of a record or document. McGonigal allegedly requested and received at least $225,000 in cash from a former foreign security officer and businessperson. That individual served as an FBI source that McGonigal supervised. McGonigal also allegedly engaged in other conduct in his official capacity for the financial benefit of that individual. McGonigal allegedly was required to disclose the income from the foreign individual and did not do so.
Semenza Sentenced on Bribery Charges: Robert Semenza, a former borough council president for Old Forge, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Semenza previously pleaded guilty to bribery and admitted to accepting cash payments in exchange for voting in favor of a local business owner in matters before the Old Forge council, to advocate on behalf of the business owner before the council, and to propose a favorable resolution to civil litigation filed by the council against the business owner.
A Police Chief Was Arrested and Charged with Dealing Meth and Cocaine: Shawn Denning, former police chief for Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was charged by criminal complaint with aiding and abetting the distribution of a quantity of cocaine, aiding and abetting the distribution of a quantity of methamphetamine, and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribute quantities of controlled substances. Denning allegedly facilitated acquiring drugs from California and Arizona to be sent to a confidential informant that was working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Denning allegedly communicated with the informant through an app that Denning believed to be encrypted.
Former Hidalgo County Commissioner, Two Others Sentenced for Bribery Conspiracy: Arturo Cuellar Jr., former commissioner for Hidalgo County, Texas, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Ricardo Quintanilla was sentenced to 16 and a half years in prison, and John F. Cuellar, Arturo’s cousin and a commissioner for Weslaco, Texas, was sentenced to three years in prison. Quintanilla and Arturo Cuellar received money from two engineering firms and paid bribes to John Cuellar, disguising them as legal expenses, in exchange for John Cuellar taking official actions favorable to those engineering firms, including awarding them a $38.5 million contract to improve Weslaco’s water treatment facilities. The defendants had been convicted at trial of multiple counts, including money laundering, Travel Act violations, and honest services fraud.
Border Investigator with Department of Transportation Pleads Guilty to Extortion: Patrick Gorena, former border investigator for the U.S. Department of Transportation in Texas, pleaded guilty to extortion for demanding money from a trucking company in exchange for not reporting safety violations.
Ethics Panel Recommends Removal of Georgia Judge over Misconduct Accusations: The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission has recommended that Judge Christian Coomer be permanently removed from office because he borrowed more than $360,000 from a client and wrote a will and trust for the client, naming himself as the executor and beneficiary. The client later sued Coomer for fraud and malpractice. Coomer also used his campaign account to pay personal and unrelated business expenses. Coomer will have an opportunity to respond to the commission’s findings before the Georgia Supreme Court determines whether discipline is appropriate.
‘Conflict of Interest’ in Bryan Kohberger Case Leaves Legal Experts Stunned: Anne Taylor, the chief of the public defender’s office in Kootenai County, Idaho, was appointed to represent Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of murdering four students in November 2022. Prior to representing Kohberger, Taylor represented in an unrelated case Cara Kernodle, who is the mother of one of the victims. Taylor’s office defended Kernodle in a total of four previous cases. The day that Taylor was appointed to represent Kohberger, Taylor withdrew from representing Kernodle. Taylor also previously represented victim Madison Mogen’s father and stepmother. Taylor is one of 13 public defenders in Idaho who are approved to handle a capital punishment case, but she is the only one located in northern Idaho.
Former Judge is Disbarred for Sexually Harassing Police Officer, Court Reporter and Prosecutor: A former judge for Cook County, Illinois, Mauricio Boris Andres Araujo, was disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court. Araujo attempted to make inappropriate contact with a police officer and a court reporter and made inappropriate sexual remarks on several occasions. The allegations against Araujo, who resigned as a judge in 2022, were deemed admitted because Araujo did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings despite having the opportunity to do so.
Justice Best Served by Leaving Intact a Conflicted Judge’s Ruling: 5th Circuit: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for relief from judgment brought by a litigant who had sued Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC in 2015. The judge presiding over the case in 2015 dismissed all claims against Wal-Mart. In 2021, the Clerk of the Western District of Louisiana contacted the parties to inform them that the judge in 2015 had owned stock in Wal-Mart while presiding over the case. The Fifth Circuit determined that although it was indisputable that the 2015 judge should have recused herself, the failure to recuse was harmless in this particular case.
Rape Case Dismissed After Hennepin County Prosecutor Admits Misconduct: In Hennepin County, Minnesota, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office dropped charges against a defendant accused of rape because the prosecutor handling the case lied to the judge about the contents of a note that a victim’s advocate passed to the prosecutor during the trial. The contents of the note were not inappropriate, but the prosecutor lying about the note caused the County Attorney’s Office to seek a mistrial. When the defense declined to join the motion for a mistrial, the prosecution decided to drop the charges because no other prosecutor was familiar enough with the case to step in. The ABA Journal summarized the facts as reported by several news outlets in greater detail.
Harris County Prosecutor, TikTok Influencer ‘Chef Way’ Resigns After Backlash Over Tweets: Waymond Wesley, a former prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office in Harris County, Texas, resigned after biased comments that Wesley had made years earlier on Twitter were made public. Wesley made the comments before he was hired by the District Attorney’s Office, which was not aware of the comments when they hired him. In addition to his legal career, Wesley routinely posts cooking videos to various social media platforms under the moniker “Chef Way.”
Corruption Perceptions Index: Transparency International released its 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and noted that “most countries are failing to stop corruption.” The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The Global Anticorruption Blog commented that comparing year-to-year changes in CPI scores for individual countries is not necessarily an accurate measure of effectiveness of anticorruption policies and efforts.
Attorney General Taps Albany Law Prof for State Ethics Post: New York Attorney General Letitia James nominated Ava Ayers to serve on the state’s new Commission on Ethics in Lobbying and Government (CELG). CELG started in mid-2022 and replaced New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Ayers must be confirmed by a panel of law school deans before serving on CELG. The commission will consist of 11 members: three nominated by the governor, two from the state Senate majority leader, two from the state Assembly speaker, and one each from the Senate and Assembly minority leaders, state comptroller, and attorney general.
AG Drummond Takes Rep. Terry O’Donnell Case from DA Vicki Behenna: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has assumed control over prosecution of a corruption case against a former state legislator. Rep. Terry O’Donnell and his wife Teresa O’Donnell were charged with violation of a law regulating official conduct, using access to computers to violate the law, perjury, obtaining a thing of value by false pretense, and conspiracy against the state. The O’Donnell case was previously being prosecuted by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office. O’Donnell allegedly supported bills to change the law in a way that allowed his wife to be named a state motor vehicle tag agent. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has also assumed control over a prosecution of the founders of Epic Charter Schools. In that case, Josh Brock, Ben Harris, and David Chaney were charged with racketeering, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses, using a computer to execute a scheme to defraud, presenting false claims to the state, and acquiring unlawful proceeds based on allegations that the defendants used state funds for their personal profit. The Attorney General’s Office has also assumed control over two separate criminal investigations into misuse of public funds by state agencies, including the Tourism and Recreation Department’s contract with a barbecue restaurant and an investigation into the Commissioners of the Land Office.
DOJ’s Criminal Division Announces Revised Corporate Enforcement Policy: The U.S. Department of Justice revised its policy regarding all corporate criminal matters handled by the Criminal Division, including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecutions. The revised and renamed Corporate Enforcement and Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy provides additional incentives for voluntary self-disclosures, cooperation, and remediation. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, Jr. delivered remarks announcing and explaining the revisions.