Joe's Spies

Campaign worker of Arpaio political foe targeted in surveillance

Bearup says Shannon Koppinger's story doesn't surprise him. Already convinced that he's been tailed by deputies, Bearup thinks Cozzolino has been surveilled so Hendershott and Arpaio can get intelligence about Bearup's political activities.

Rick Romley says he's also received new information that such political surveillance is going on, and he specifically mentioned illegal wiretapping when he discussed it last week with New Times. Romley says he's turning over evidence of the surveillance both to U.S. Attorney Jose Rivera and state Attorney General Janet Napolitano.

"If these allegations are true, whether there's illegal wiretaps or whether there's anything improper, it's not just necessarily a violation of the civil rights laws. It could be a violation of the criminal laws here. But probably more importantly there's a statute on the books--it's called an 'accusation'--that if an elected official performs malfeasance or misfeasance of office, improperly using office, it calls for the removal of that elected official," Romley says.

If it can be shown that Arpaio improperly instructed his deputies to perform political surveillance using county resources, Arpaio could be out of a job.

Romley himself may have been a target of such surveillance. Bearup says that when he was still a trusted aide to Arpaio, the sheriff instructed him to obtain a list of Romley's contributors in the 1996 campaign. Sources tell New Times that Arpaio then had deputies, on county time, call Romley's supporters to question them in an intimidating manner about why they were supporting Romley.

Romley himself wouldn't comment on the specific nature of the evidence that he has turned over to Rivera and Napolitano.

Mark Koppinger and Rich Burden operate out of David Hendershott's notorious enforcement-support bureau, which has been the subject of much of the FBI's investigation, according to sources who have been interviewed by agents.

Deputy spokesman Steve Barnes and other sheriff's employees tell New Times that Hendershott uses the enforcement-support bureau to handle Arpaio's dirty work. Deputies who have been accused of gestapolike pogroms to oust deputies the sheriff suspects of disloyalty have come out of, or been rewarded with, posts in enforcement-support, they say.

Enforcement-support is also the bureau Arpaio has turned to in recent months for what have become increasingly bizarre publicity stunts. It's also the bureau that handles the posse programs and oversees its raising of pink underwear money. The sheriff's office has refused to disclose records of that money, which Arpaio brags totals more than $1 million, and won't say what it's been used for.

Besides heading up the Cozzolino investigation, Burden is also the enforcement-support deputy who has tried, unsuccessfully, to gather enough evidence to convince prosecutors to charge letter carrier Wayne Bates with intentionally pepper spraying two dogs. In a taped interview, Burden appeared to admit that his work was more political than law enforcement-related. Not seeming to realize that his tape recorder was on, Burden told a potential expert witness that he doubted he would ever find enough evidence to charge Bates, "but I'm going to keep digging and you know why, I'm mandated and the sheriff doesn't want me to drop this, wants me to keep going even if we can't get prosecution. You know why? Sheriff's getting sued for three million dollars," by Bates.

Shannon Koppinger says her husband Mark took a job with the enforcement-support division with the promise that he'd eventually be rewarded with a post in the tactical operations unit.

Koppinger says her husband participated in a five-member "threat assessment squad" that followed up on threats allegedly made against Arpaio, which is why he was given the assignment to investigate Cozzolino.

But she says his first assignment in Hendershott's special squad was to handle a case that, she says, Sheriff Arpaio believed had high publicity possibilities. Mark Koppinger was assigned the case of Ryan Laughlin, the teenager who claimed he knew of a satanic coven which was killing cats in Ahwatukee. Shannon claims her husband continually told Laughlin that he would be protected in the investigation, but that when the probe had turned up no leads, Arpaio pressured Koppinger and Burden to arrest someone so that Arpaio could go to the press. The investigators capitulated and targeted Laughlin himself, she says.

Ryan's father, Jerry Laughlin, corroborates Shannon Koppinger's story. Laughlin confirms that Mark Koppinger and Burden promised his son that he would be used to help catch the cat killers, and that he wouldn't be the subject of an investigation himself. "All along I felt that they were spending an inordinate amount of human resources chasing the cat thing. But I know Sheriff Joe's politics," Laughlin says.

"Koppinger told me he was new in that group [enforcement-support]. And that he happened to get the call on this cat thing," he adds. "Throughout the process they [Koppinger and Burden] were continually reassuring Ryan that he wouldn't be hurt, that he wouldn't be prosecuted. We didn't know anything had changed until they served the search warrant."

The same day that Burden applied for the Cozzolino search warrant--October 21--he also asked Judge Kaufman for a warrant to search the Laughlin house. A month later Arpaio presented evidence that Ryan Laughlin himself was the killer of cats, and even identified the minor. Law enforcers usually do not identify accused minors.

Jerry Laughlin says he and his son were stunned by the betrayal. "Koppinger came across very sincere. He had me convinced that he really cared about Ryan."

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address:

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Cozz topcommenter

Burden has always been and will always be a corrupt lying piece of shit SCUMBAG.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving ASSHOLE.

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