County Supervisor Don Stapley indicted on 118 counts

By Linda Bentley | December 10, 2008

‘A challenge of this sort can happen to any one of us, in or out of public office’
PHOENIX – On Nov. 20, a grand jury indicted Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley on 118 criminal charges that include 21 counts of perjury, 23 counts of forgery, 21 counts of false swearing and 53 counts of filing an incomplete and/or false financial disclosure statement as a public officer or local public officer.

The information was not made public until Dec. 2, during a joint press conference held by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, after confirming Stapley had been served.

Don StapleyFollowing Tuesday’s press conference, Stapley issued a statement saying he is proud of the 14 years he has served in public office and stated, “I have always put the interest of the public first, including full disclosure of any assets.”

Stapley says he stands falsely accused and is “shocked and disappointed that such accusations are being made.”

Citing the matter should be “quickly dismissed,” Stapley said, “I assure you that I stand on my record of complete integrity and disclosure and will fight these allegations,” adding, “A challenge of this sort can happen to any one of us, in or out of public service.”

Calling the charges “baseless,” Stapley concluded, “I remain proud of my legacy and of my work – and most importantly – of my record.”

Currently serving his fourth term as supervisor, his third as chair, Stapley was recently elected president of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and was scheduled to host the first of three regional NACo hearings on health care reform the following day, in the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Auditorium.

Stapley’s undisclosed land deals and business associations, including Conley Wolfswinkel, a felon convicted of bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, bribery, and false statements/aiding and abetting in 1993, span Stapley’s entire 14-years as a county supervisor.

The charges, a little over half of which are felonies, are the result of a six-month investigation conducted by MACE, a joint anti-corruption task force operated by the Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff.

Arpaio stated that during the investigation deputies instructed the clerk of the county board of supervisors not to discuss the matter with anyone, so as not to compromise the investigation.

However, the very next day, Arpaio said Stapley filed amended reports. The sheriff’s office is looking into whether county employees aided Stapley and/or tried to obstruct the investigation, indicating more charges could be filed.

Thomas stated the amended disclosure statements were the first time Stapley reported a deferred compensation plan, accounts with Charles Schwaab, additional land ownership and business interests.

Stapley is charged with filing financial disclosure statements that repeatedly failed to disclose reportable interests, ownership, land exchanges and sales of property in which he personally had an interest or property in which his business associates had an interest.

And, according to count 103, in September 2005, “despite a consent order entered against him on October 11, 2000 for failure to disclose to the Department of Real Estate the filing of a bankruptcy petition relating to Val Vista Lakes Development,” Stapley, “with the intent to defraud, falsely made, completed or altered his Personal Statement to Lexon Insurance Company by marking ‘no’ to the question if he had ever taken bankruptcy.”

On at least two occasions, Thomas said Stapley filled out loan applications and checked the “no” box, indicating neither he nor any of his businesses had ever filed for bankruptcy.
In count 104, Stapley is accused of making a false sworn statement on his financial disclosure statement attesting to its truth and accuracy, “yet he failed to disclose a reportable interest in Arroyo Pacific Partners, LLC; Arroyo Pecan Partners, LLC; Summer Sun, LLC; DT Stapley Family Trust, Deferred Compensation Plan, a Charles Schwaab investment account in the name of Donald Stapley opened in the amount of $275,000 and/or a Charles Schwaab investment account opened in the name of Arroyo Pacific Investments in the amount of $310,000 or property owned,” which included Breckenridge Bay Lot 37 or 2 and Lot 9 Chandler Heights Citrus Tract Unit 3626.

Even though Stapley had a reportable interest in the aforementioned LLCs, he failed to disclose a land exchange and/or sale made between Arroyo Pacific Investments and ABCDW, LLC, which involved Stapley, Wolfswinkel and/or members of his family.

Because Stapley failed to disclose his land holdings, business dealings, personal and business accounts, Thomas said the public had no way of determining whether any conflicts of interest existed, as Stapley routinely voted as a supervisor on cases involving land development, rights of way and purchases of county property.

Thomas pointed out specific land deals involving Stapley and Wolfswinkel and said decisions have been made by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors over the last several years relating to land owned by various companies and individuals with whom Stapley has done business.

And, in 2006, despite listing assets on a loan application in excess of $12 million, including cash, securities, residence, real estate investments, partnerships and over a half million in stocks and bonds, Stapley, whose annual salary as a county supervisor is around $68,000, failed to disclose any such ownership in trusts, investment funds or bonds in his financial disclosure statement for 2006.

Three of the businesses Stapley owned or operated obtained loans totaling approximately $10 million. According to Thomas, those loans were later refinanced with a personal guarantee made by Stapley.

Arpaio and Thomas indicated the investigation of Stapley and other county employees is not over and the special task force still seeks to determine any additional reasons for Stapley’s non disclosure of assets and the possible involvement of county employees.