SANTA ANA, CALIF. (CN) – Here are links to the federal indictments of Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona, his wife Deborah Carona, and attorney Debra Victoria Hoffman, who are accused of taking bribes for official favors, and the plea agreements of two men who admitted they bribed them.
The 10-count indictment charges Carona, sheriff and coroner of Orange County, of taking $1,000 a month from businessman Donald Haidl, in exchange for a “get out of jail free card,” other benefits from the Sheriff’s Office for Haidl and his family and friends – including Haidl’s son, who was arrested twice during Carona’s tenure. Haidl is accused of paying Carona the monthly bribes since the sheriff was first elected in 1998.
Carona is accused of taking more than $350,000 in bribes, from Haidl and from attorney George H. Jaramillo, both of whom Carona appointed as deputy sheriffs.
Carona also is accused of tampering with a witness – Haidl: trying to persuade him to lie to a federal grand jury.
Haidl allegedly gave Hoffman and Jaramillo a $110,000 cashier’s check the day before Carona was elected in 1998, for the benefit of the law firm that Jaramillo and Hoffman had founded. The money was to be repaid by Carona, Jaramillo and others referring legal cases, including those involving the Sheriff’s Department and its employees, to another lawyer, who would kick back fees to the conspirators. Haidl also allegedly gave another $65,000 to Hoffman at Carona’s request.
Carona and Jaramillo also are accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars from the owner of a paintball business in exchange for Carona’s help in finding land for a game site.
Haidl pleaded guilty to federal tax charges in a March 6 indictment that was unsealed Tuesday. He faces up to 3 years in prison. See Haidl plea agreement.
Jaramillo pleaded guilty on March 13 to federal tax charges and mail fraud. He faces up to 23 years in prison. See Jaramillo plea agreement.
Both Jaramillo and Haidl will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford on June 23, 2008.
The case is just the latest public embarrassment for Orange County, where corruption and incompetence led to the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history in the 1990s.
Here is the indictment against the Caronas and Hoffman.