Deputies are taking boxes of files from the Chicanos Por La Causa buildings at 11th Street and Buckeye Road as the group's supporters prepare for a possible anti-Sheriff-Joe-Arpaio demonstration. (See update below -- a demonstration is now looking less likely).
A regional conference of Chicanos Por La Causa officials is also taking place at a building in the small complex, and deputies are allowing it to continue.
Salvador Reza of Somos America, camcorder in hand, is among the observers gathering outside the Chicanos parking lot, which is cordoned off with a strand of police tape. Several officials of the Raza Development Fund, a lending arm of the National Council of La Raza, also came out to watch.
Bernarda Duarte, (left) the Raza fund's marketing officer, says she's appalled by the Sheriff's Office's timing of the raid, which
appears to be is tied to the indictment of Mary Rose Wilcox. Not only was the conference scheduled for today, but it's also International Human Rights Day, she says.
She's not familiar with the allegations against Wilcox, but says the Sheriff's Office doesn't seem to be "erring on the side of respecting people's rights."
Duarte and other Raza Fund members say they are making calls in hopes of firing up people for a protest today at the site. However, with sheriff's officials being relatively mellow -- not kicking the Chicano employees to the street as they conduct the search -- it might be difficult to rally the troops, they said.
Two spokeswomen for Chicanos Por La Causa just emerged to say they have nothing to say, other than the group is fully cooperating with the sheriff's investigation. The group's attorney advised workers not to make public comments, says Chicanos CEO Argie Gomez.
|Argie Gomez, CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa and Amanda Roberson, the group's communications director, give their non-statement.|
Meanwhile, Alfredo Gutierrez, former state legislator and activist for Somos America, calls today's action part of the "ongoing circus" of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He admitted the conflict-of-interest allegations against Supervisor Wilcox could be legitimate, but that the state's disclosure laws are "murky and technical."
Gutierrez, who says he helped found Chicanos Por La Causa in 1969 but now has no direct ties to the group, says a demostration today is unlikely. Much of the activism regarding today's raid will be behind-the-scenes talks.
However, he and Reza say a large demonstration is still planned for January 16.
Here's the statement put out today by the Sheriff's Office:
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is currently serving search warrants on the organization, Chicanos Por La Causa, at its headquarters, 1122 East Buckeye Road, Phoenix.
The search warrants are in reference to the criminal indictment earlier this week against Board of Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.
Currently, a statewide conference for members and associates of Chicanos Por La Causa is being held at the headquarters address. As a courtesy to attendees, Sheriff's deputies will not evacuate the building during the execution of the search warrant.
The officials from Chicano Por La Causa handed out a statement they had previously released on Tuesday:
Prestamos CDFI LLC, the small business lending subsidiary of Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. (CPLC), has made loans to El Portal Restaurant, which were guaranteed by Mary Rose Wilcox and her husband Earl. These loans were made in accordance with Prestamos's strict underwriting guidelines.
Prestamos creates economic opportunities for small and emerging small businesses in Arizona as part of CPLC, Arizona's largest community development corporation. Prestamos provides loans along with technical assistance to small businesses that enhance the community by creating jobs and economic opportunities.
In order to receive a loan from Prestamos, applicants must meet certain criteria. The Prestamos Small Business Loan Committee, made up of community members, must review and approve all loans. The Wilcox business applied for loans, which were approved after they went through the normal review process by the loan committee. Mrs. Wilcox did not receive special treatment, nor was she denied the opportunity to receive a loan from Prestamos because of her position as an elected official.
The following is the loan history:
November 2000 -- loan for $7,500, paid in full as agreed
July 2005 -- loan for $50,000, paid in full as agreed
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October 2008 -- loan for $120,000, current
Multiple lien records appear on the public record, but the total of the three loans was $177,500
CPLC takes any inquiries related to our business operations very seriously. We are committed to the continued economic development of our community, and we strive to maintain the high ethical standards that have driven our organization for the past 40 years.
So far, the social-service agency doesn't seem to be implicated in any criminal actions itself. That could change as the deputies pore through the records they seized.