Anti-Corruption Effort by Thomas and Arpaio Spurs Guilty Plea from West Valley Fire Chief and Family


The Maricopa County Anti-Corruption Effort, a.k.a. MACE, finally bagged an actual criminal. Make that a family of criminals.

MACE, created by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, seems generally designed to bludgeon political opponents. But this is one case in which smoke really did become fire. It involves a dirty west Valley fire chief who embezzled tens of thousands of dollars in public funds. No big names here, except for the name of the fire district: Harquahala. It covers 432 square miles west of Phoenix, says the district's Web site.

The former chief, Randal Long (pictured), his son Carl, wife Sandra and bookkeeper Kim Vigil, recently pleaded guilty to theft.

All but the chief face probation at their sentencing. Randal Long is looking at a possible two years in prison -- and he already knows he has to pay $250,000 in restitution. The county attorney's office says Long stole money here and there over a few years. His biggest take: $55,000 in district money that he was supposed to spend on construction materials.

If only all of MACE's investigations were this legit. 

Long Plea May 28 09 Long Plea May 28 09 ray stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.