Stapley's charges stem from unlisted properties - East Valley Tribune: News

Stapley's charges stem from unlisted properties

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Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 8:08 pm | Updated: 9:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The criminal charges leveled against Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley hinge almost exclusively on his failure to individually list a half-dozen properties he owns through a series of real estate investment companies, according to documents related to the 118-count indictment announced Tuesday.

Stapley indicted over land deals, $10M loan

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Stapley's ownership of the companies was disclosed on personal financial disclosure statements he filed both as a candidate and as an elected official. But the individual parcels owned through his companies, primarily Arroyo Pacific Investments Inc., and a family trust were not listed separately.

Nothing in the indictment indicates that there was anything illegal in the underlying land transactions. However, the charges brought by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas allege that Stapley failed to fully disclose his ties to businesses and land deals as required by law.

Stapley, R-District 2 who represents Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale, said Wednesday that he believes he met the disclosure requirements of the law.

"I believe I did everything required of me," Stapley said. "I can't say anymore, I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to try this case in the press."

Also Wednesday, former Attorney General Grant Woods said he is not representing Stapley in the case. Stapley had said Tuesday that Woods would be his lawyer.

Stapley was indicted by a grand jury in November on charges of perjury, forgery, false swearing and filing an incomplete or false financial disclosure statement. The charges were announced Tuesday at a joint news conference between Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose agency investigated the case. Arpaio characterized the charges as the result of the first phase of the investigation.

Despite the high number of charges, virtually all of them trace back to transactions made by Stapley's real estate investment companies and involve six pieces of land scattered throughout Maricopa and Pinal counties. All of the charges allege that he did not disclose required information on annual disclosure statements elected public officials are required to file, or on separate statements that must be filled out by candidates for elected office.

Each time Stapley did not list an individual property on a disclosure statement, it brought a separate slew of charges.

For example, about 50 of the charges relate to Stapley's failure to individually list ownership of a small cluster of commercial properties on Main Street just east of Stapley Drive in downtown Mesa.

Each time Stapley did not list those properties on a separate form, it resulted in a new set of charges.

The property was owned by Arroyo Pacific and was sold in 2003. The indictment alleges that Stapley broke the law by failing to disclose ownership of the land in reports going back to 1994.

Arroyo Pacific is owned by Stapley and his wife, Kathleen, according to corporate records filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Two other land deals were singled out by Thomas because Stapley's companies bought the properties in Pinal County from companies affiliated with Conley Wolfswinkel, who was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the 1990s.

Arroyo Pacific bought 80 acres near Heritage and Attaway roads in Pinal County in July 2004 for $1.3 million from ABCDW LLC, a company owned by Wolfswinkel's sons. Conley Wolfswinkel is a consultant to companies owned by his sons. A separate deal went through at the same time for about $1 million, and involved about 70 acres near Maricopa, according to Pinal County land records. Arroyo Pacific bought the land from ABCDW and another Wolfswinkel-related company.

Lee Johnson, a lawyer for the Wolfswinkel companies, said there was nothing unusual in the transactions.

"It is a very typical real estate transaction, and it is a type of transaction the companies here have with any number of people," Johnson said. "There's nothing unique with the transactions to Don Stapley."

The indictment does not allege that there was anything improper about the deals.

The other land parcels connected with Stapley that led to charges include:

Seven sites in a subdivision near Main and Stapley owned by Arroyo Pacific, which sold the properties in June 2003.

A residential property near Val Vista and Lakeside drives in Gilbert, which was owned by Stapley and several family members until it was sold in February.

A residential site in Gilbert near Recker and Riggs roads, which a separate Stapley company, Arroyo Pacific Partners LLC, sold in February 2007.

Elected officials are required to complete a financial disclosure statement every year detailing personal property holdings and other business dealings. The county sends out the forms, which are required to be completed and returned by Jan. 31, said Lori Pacini, a deputy clerk of the County Board of Supervisors.

However, the clerk's office provides no instruction on precisely what information must be included. Instead, the county gives its elected officials an instructional pamphlet from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, said Fran McCarroll, clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

Attorney and former state lawmaker Charles Blanchard described the forms as "not being very user-friendly" because of vague directions. He said most sections provide instructions that leave a lot open to interpretation.

While Stapley listed most of his business interests, he did not disclose the individual properties those businesses owned as required by law. In the 14 years Stapley has held office, he never listed a single property owned by any of his half-dozen companies named in the indictments.

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