Friday, November 7, 2008

SFGate: Former ally says he paid off ex-sheriff monthly

A millionaire businessman who allegedly helped launder campaign donations for former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona testified Thursday that he paid the sheriff a monthly stipend to keep him from taking bribes from others.

Don Haidl, who struck a plea deal with prosecutors in Carona's federal corruption case, said he paid Carona and his campaign manager, George Jaramillo, $1,000 a month each to control their greed. He said he was worried that obligations over small freebies would derail the trio's larger plan to get Carona elected to state office, where he could funnel lucrative side deals and contracts to Haidl.

"They seemed to be obsessed with money and business deals and they didn't seem to understand how the business world works ... and I was very concerned," Haidl said, saying he made the payments from 1998 to 2002. "I didn't want them to be politically obligated to people over a dinner."

The government alleges that over several years the three-term sheriff, his mistress, his wife and a close group of friends accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for the power of Carona's office.

Prosecutors allege the scheme began as early as 1998, when Carona - an underdog candidate - laundered tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations with Haidl's help.

Carona, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and witness tampering. His mistress, Debra Hoffman, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud. Carona's wife, Deborah, will be tried separately on a single count of conspiracy.

Read more on the SFGate’s article.

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