Uncle Sam Wants Them

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The raid comes 25 months after I exposed widespread financial abuses at the Colorado City school district ("The Wages of Sin," April 10, 2003).

Police sources say investigators discovered evidence indicating that school district property was being used to conduct private business.

Investigators, for example, seized surveying equipment from the back of a district-owned Ford F-350, 4X4 crew cab assigned to Jessop, who operates a private surveying business on the side.

Police also discovered unopened cans of beer in Jessop's truck. Jessop, like Alvin Barlow and Oliver Barlow, is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, which forbids alcohol consumption.

Investigators are focusing on allegations that the school district diverted large amounts of public money into unknown activities.

Meg Pollard, an attorney general's investigator specializing in school fraud, states in an affidavit that the district set up a bank account that cleared large transactions that required -- but never received -- the approval of Mohave County schools Superintendent Mike File.

Pollard states that she found transactions as large as $170,000 moving through the account. More than $900,000 cleared the account in the past five years. Any transaction over $20,000 needed approval by File's office, which was never notified.

The state's discovery of what appears to be a slush fund is not surprising. My investigation found that school administrators had rung up thousands of dollars of personal expenses on district credit cards.

The state's also investigating a $3 million grant that the district reportedly received but never spent on school functions.

The raid came four days after File told teachers and administrators that the state intended to place the school district into receivership later this summer. File told the staff that he expected to be appointed as the receiver and that he planned to terminate many employees.

The Attorney General's Office wisely moved to protect evidence in its criminal investigation from possible destruction.

My investigation proved that Colorado City school officials engaged in illegal activities. It's great that the AG's office is cutting off the publicly funded financial pipeline to the polygamist enclave, which has used the school district to illegally siphon funds to the fundamentalist church. The leaders of that church have not only condoned but required the sexual abuse of underage girls in their community for decades.

Says one police officer involved in the raid about those responsible for the financial fraud: "I think we got them."

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty