Tucson Cop Pleads Guilty to Gambling Away $560,000 in RICO Funds

Irony of the Day:

A Tucson police lieutenant stole $560,000 in money seized from criminals under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act over the course of four years, gambling most of it away.

Richard Garcia, 47, admitted to the crime in federal court today, pleading guilty to "theft from an organization receiving federal funds," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona (full text below).

Garcia also pleaded guilty to -- no surprise here -- failing to pay taxes on all that illicit revenue.

Of course, RICO funds are wasted all of the time, so maybe this isn't such a big deal.

After all, is it any worse to gamble the funds away than to spend them on programs like the Missionettes? Or free trips to an island paradise in Honduras?

Text of the U.S. Attorney's news release follows:




        TUCSON, Ariz. - Former South Tucson Police Lieutenant Richard R. Garcia, 47, of Tucson, made his first appearance in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Marshall. During today's hearing, Robles gave up his right to be indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with theft from an organization receiving federal funds, as well as to subscribing and filing false income tax returns. 

        Garcia admitted that between February 24, 2004 and May 21, 2008, he stole $560,177 in funds intended for the City of South Tucson and the Pima County Anti-Racketeering Fund.  During the course of the thefts, he kept $454,963 from the total amount taken. In addition to the thefts, he failed to file tax returns on the money taken during tax years 2004-2007.  Garcia was released on bond pending sentencing which is set before U.S. District Judge David C. Bury on April 6, 2009.

        On May 22, 2008, federal agents executed search warrants on Garcia's office, home and vehicle.  Garcia admitted to agents that he stole cash and cashed checks made payable to the City of South Tucson Police Department to fund his gambling habit. After the search warrants, $10,795 remained in one bank account Garcia used and was returned to the City of South Tucson.  Agents also discovered that Garcia had secretly paid back over $94,000 into the city's general fund throughout the course of the thefts.  As a condition of his guilty plea, Garcia agreed to pay $254,318 restitution to the City of South Tucson and $200,266 restitution to the Pima County Anti-Racketeering Fund.

        The theft conviction carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both.  The tax conviction carries a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both.  In determining an actual sentence, Judge Bury will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges.  The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

        The investigation in this case was conducted by Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Pima County Attorney's Office and South Tucson Police Department. The prosecution is being handled by Mary Sue Feldmeier, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson and Danny N. Roetzel, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division.



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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.