Former Paradise Valley Judge, Elsa Lynch, Pleads Guilty to Theft; 18-Year Employee Helped Pioneer Photo Enforcement

We had no idea that Paradise Valley's veteran judge, Elsa Lynch, was in a peck of legal trouble when she told us in July about her upcoming retirement.

Forgive us for momentarily losing our suspicious mind.

A few weeks after our chat, it turns out, Lynch was indicted by a federal grand jury for theft and bank fraud. Lynch, 59, a Gilbert resident, pleaded guilty today to one count of theft of government property, says the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona. She faces up to a year in jail when she's sentenced on March 16 by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan.

Authorities say Lynch stole more than $15,000 in U.S. Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension benefits by using the name of her deceased mother. She even signed her mom's name on four checks, according to an August news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Lynch worked for PV for about 18 years, eventually rising to the dual role of court administrator and city judge. Though she doesn't have a law degree, the Arizona Supreme Court certified her as a limited-jurisdiction judge.

During her tenure, Lynch helped pioneer photo enforcement by streamlining court processes in Paradise Valley, the first town in the state to use speed cameras.

After she pays her dues, it's doubtful Lynch will be busting any speeders or doing other judge-type work in the future. We look forward to her tell-all book about Paradise Valley, Mayor Vernon Parker, and how to beat a photo-enforcement ticket.


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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.

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