Not long ago, Tom Simon was news director of a local talk radio station -- hosting Sheriff Joe Arpaio on the air and bragging that he had Arpaio programmed on his cell phone. Now Simon is, once again, a guest of the sheriff.
In late April, Simon was arrested by Phoenix police and charged with 20 felony counts of forgery.
Tom Simon (Avila, on the air at KFNX) is an experienced criminal whose record in other states goes back two decades and includes arrests for forgery, grand theft, obstruction of justice and assault on a peace officer. He moved to Arizona just after being paroled from an L.A. county prison last June and immediately embarked on a very busy schedule.
Although he's been in Arizona less than a year, Simon managed to fall in love in July, marry in September, lead police on a high-speed chase in November, get popped on 14 felony counts of forgery in December, reinvent himself as a journalist in February, get fired at the beginning of April, and arrested on 20 new felony counts by the Phoenix Police Department by the end of April.
Simon's troubles here began with a scheme Phoenix police say he embarked upon shortly after arriving in Phoenix. Police allege Simon bought electronics equipment with phony checks, then sold his purchases to local pawnshops. Police began investigating Simon in November, when he fled arresting officers in his car, running a red light and crashing into a truck. Police arrested him for assault the next day. The money to bond out Simon was secured by the home of Simon's new father in-law.
Simon told New Times in an interview at the end of March that he then decided to abandon his criminal life and go back to journalism, a career he had dabbled in between prison stints. He got a job as news director at AM radio station KFNX 1100 in early 2003, where he used the name "Tom Avila" on the air.
Simon could not be reached for comment.
Upon his most recent arrest, Simon told Phoenix police officer Andrew Barciz that he was fired from the radio station he worked at shortly after a story about his criminal past and pending charges appeared in New Times ("Tom Avila's Big Story," April 1), according to Barciz's report. Barciz wrote, "I asked him what had happened to the $9,000 he had taken from the credit union. [Simon] stated he had gambled it all away."
Just one week after getting axed from his radio job, Simon was running forged checks through his wife's bank account, police say. He owed $3,000 to Liberty Bail Bonds, says owner Dana Schnell, and wasn't returning the bondsman's phone calls.
On April 21, Schnell says he got a call from Simon's wife saying she'd like to revoke bail, that Simon had packed the car full of clothes and taken off.
Schnell tracked Simon down at Sun Devil Auto. When Simon attempted to leave, his car full of suits, Schnell and other bondsmen boxed him in with their vehicles.
When Schnell searched Simon for drugs and weapons while taking him into custody, he found two payroll checks in his pocket from B.S. Enterprises, a fictitious company with an apparently fitting name.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 602-229-8440.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.