Pinal sheriff calls for recorder to resign - East Valley Tribune: News

Pinal sheriff calls for recorder to resign

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Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 2:38 pm | Updated: 1:21 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu this week demanded the resignation of the county recorder for hiring her daughter's boyfriend and failing to prevent him from using county records to steal the identities and commit financial fraud against several victims.

PDF: Sheriff’s administrative report on Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu this week demanded the resignation of the county recorder for hiring her daughter's boyfriend and failing to prevent him from using county records to steal the identities and commit financial fraud against several victims.

PDF: Sheriff’s administrative report on Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle

But the lawyer for Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle branded the sheriff's investigation a politically motivated "witch hunt" and part of the new sheriff's attempt to build a reputation as a hard-charging reformer.

Dean-Lytle knew that her daughter's boyfriend, Albert Robbs, had served time in prison for trafficking in stolen property and that he had a history of drug abuse, according to sheriff's records. Yet she gave him a job in 2003 and later promoted him, despite a poor work history, to a position that gave him access to financial information he later used as part of an identity-theft racket, according to sheriff's reports.

Robbs traded financial information he got from the recorder's office for drugs, according to the investigation. The account numbers from people who had sent checks to the recorder's office were later used by other individuals to pass bogus checks, according to reports.

"This smacks of corruption," Babeu said Wednesday, adding Dean-Lytle breached the trust of people who relied on her office to protect their financial information. "She knowingly put a convicted felon in a sensitive position. There were numerous times that she admitted that she knew he had illicit drug use and was a problem employee. She hired him because of the familial relationship. It not only clouded her judgment. We have victims of identity theft, fraud and forgery because of her actions."

Dean-Lytle did not return phone calls seeking comment. Her lawyer, Michael Sheridan, said she tried to give Robbs a break with a job as he was coming out of prison. While that turned out to be a bad decision, there is no hint of corruption or criminal activity on Dean-Lytle's part, Sheridan said.

"If you are going to call somebody corrupt, you'd better have more facts," Sheridan said in characterizing the sheriff's remarks as politically motivated. "For them to suggest that she was somehow in cahoots with this guy is horrible. They want to destroy this woman's life for political gain. It's sad."

Babeu is a Republican. Dean-Lytle is a Democrat.

Robbs was arrested in December at his job in the recorder's office.

The case began months earlier, when detectives were investigating reports of several bogus checks being passed in Pinal County, Tucson and the East Valley. The account routing numbers were tracked to identity theft victims who said they had recently sent checks to the Pinal County Recorder's Office.

The investigation led to Robbs, who police say traded the account numbers for drugs. Those account numbers were later used by others to pass phony checks amounting to at least $5,000, according to sheriff's reports. Also seized in the investigation were voter lists and registration cards, documents that are kept by the recorder's office. Reports list that there were four victims - three people and a bank.

Robbs admitted to detectives that he used marijuana and methamphetamines but denied he had given documents from the recorder's office to his drug supplier, according to sheriff's reports.

In a separate administrative investigation, Capt. Jeff Karns of the sheriff's office said that for 10 years Robbs had been the boyfriend of Dean-Lytle's daughter, Michelle Daymon.

Robbs and Daymon were arrested for stealing items from a storage facility in Pinal County in 1999, according to county records.

Robbs spent 3 1/2 years in prison. Daymon spent about six months in jail and was placed on probation, records show.

Dean-Lytle told Karns that she got Robbs a part-time job in the recorder's office after he was released from prison. Dean-Lytle also acknowledged that her daughter had a drug problem and suspected Robbs did as well.

Though Robbs received lackluster reviews and had a record of disciplinary problems, he was promoted in 2007 to a higher-paying job that gave him access to confidential financial information, including checks from people who wanted documents recorded, according to Karns' report.

Dean-Lytle admitted to Karns that she "screwed up" by hiring Robbs but asked that the investigation be kept "low key and quiet" because it would "bury her politically," according to his report.

The sheriff's office sought charges of theft, identity theft and impairing the availability of a public record against Robbs. The Pinal County Attorney's Office sent the case to Attorney General Terry Goddard to avoid any conflict of interest, according to a statement from the county prosecutor issued Tuesday.

That case is still under review and no charges have been filed against Robbs, according to a spokeswoman for Goddard.

Babeu said he also delivered Karns' administrative investigation of Dean-Lytle to County Attorney James Walsh for possible prosecution. But Walsh declined to seek charges.

The statement from Walsh's office says prosecutors "determined that no crime had been committed by the Recorder and thus declined to prosecute."

Babeu said he was not satisfied with that conclusion.

"She put this guy in a position that he had no right being in, and that is corruption," Babeu said. "This is a public office. These are citizens who were conducting business with our government and they were fleeced of money. Their personal identities were stolen because of this woman's decision."

Sheridan, Dean-Lytle's lawyer, said he has not spoken with her about changes she has made in office procedures to protect confidential information. He said there is no evidence in either the criminal investigation of Robbs or the administrative report on his client that Dean-Lytle did anything illegal or corrupt.

"I haven't seen any evidence of her looking the other way," Sheridan said. "They are calling for her resignation because she tried to give somebody a break.

"You've got a Republican sheriff that says he's going to clean house and that there's corruption in Pinal County. So he's going to take this half-baked idea that's what there is."

Babeu was elected in November when he defeated Democratic incumbent Chris Vasquez.

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