Feathered Bastard

Waiting for the Auditor General's Report on David Hendershott, the RICO Money, and Hendy's Honduran Project

Jabba the Hendershott, shortly after devouring Honduras.

Will we ever find out for certain what Joe Arpaio's Chief Deputy David Hendershott and his MCSO flunkies were doing down in Honduras in 2007 and 2008 training that country's police force?  And will there be any consequences for that boondoggle? If you'll recall, I gave that scandal its first press in January of 2008 on this blog, by revealing interviews Hendershott and other upper echelon MCSOers had given to Honduran radio personality "Roatan Bruce" Starr. In them, they revealed that Hendershott was essentially running his own private foreign policy right out of the MCSO's swank 19th Floor offices in downtown Phoenix's Wells Fargo Building.

Now I've learned from Jay Zsorey, the Financial Audit Director for the state's Auditor General's Office, that a report on the use of RICO monies to help pay for the Honduran enterprise is basically finished, and should be out in March or April, as part of a larger, overall report on the county's finances.

This look by the Auditor General into the exploitation of RICO also covers the County Attorney's office, which had it's questionable uses of RICO funds as well -- uses that have promoted the image and career of C.A. Andrew Thomas. Zsorey says the report needs to be discussed with both the MCSO and the MCAO before it's released. The audit itself was originally scheduled for 2009, but was moved up by Zsorey's predecessor Dennis Mattheisen, who has since retired. Mattheisen bumped up the review because of the intense media scrutiny into the MCSO's Honduran adventure.

Hendy with a Honduran cop and some MCSO flunkies.

The price tag for this Central American adventure cost more than $157K, including the salaries of MCSO personnel involved, plane flights, reimbursements for meals and accommodations, creating and shipping training manuals to the country, not to mention the crime-fighting equipment that the MCSO donated to Honduran cops. A delegation of Honduran brass was flown up here to Maricopa County for the grand tour at taxpayer expense. While in town, they scored a photo op with Governor Napolitano, who declared June 5, 2007 "Bay Island Sister Agency Project for Justice and Service Day."

Thing is, the public didn't know this was going on. Nor did it seem the Board of Supervisors knew the full scope of it either, as the MCSO covered itself after I and other journos began to report on it. The MCSO did this by giving a presentation before the Supes, one that lowballed the cost of the program. The Honduran enterprise was being used to justify a major expenditure of RICO funds, funds confiscated from busting criminal organizations. Over $30K of the estimated $157K were from RICO money. And then another $200K for facial recognition technology the MCSO purchased with the approval of the County Attorney's office. This was to be used in large part for a database of Honduran mug shots.

Janet'd do anything for ol' Joe, even give these Honduran cats some love.

The two companies who benefited from that largesse were Phoenix-based Darcomm Network Solutions and Hummingbird Defense Systems. Court records show that Darcomm filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May of 2008, and that case is ongoing. As for Hummingbird, the Arizona Corporation Commission lists it as not being in good standing because it has not filed annual reports for two years.

Hendershott has been alleged to have ties to Hummingbird by reporter Joe Dana of Channel 12 News. And Dana has reported that Hendershott and Hummingbird CEO Stephen Greschner were in China back in 2006 together and stayed in the same hotel. 

It should be noted that Hummingbird has partnered in the past with the MCSO, and that Hummingbird and Darcomm are intertwined, or were. Darcomm's President Michael Ciavarella is listed as Hummingbird's director with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The shadiness of the MCSO's operations in Honduras, its deals with Hummingbird and Darcomm, and the link between Greschner and Hendershott, all cry out for a full investigation. It sounds as if the Auditor General's scope is limited, but here's hoping that office's reps won't punk out, throw up their hands, and say, "Hey, law enforcement can do whatever it wants with RICO money." Because that's not true. RICO money is the people's money, money captured from the liquidation of criminal enterprises, and there are guidelines for the use of these funds. RICO money is not for a sheriff's or a county attorney's personal slush fund, to do with as they please. 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons