Money Trail Leads To Confession

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When faced with the prospect of submitting to a lie-detector test, Gila County detention officer William Thomas Brunson confessed to stealing several hundred dollars from an inmate, according to an internal investigation report.


And a second internal investigation revealed that a deputy from the Gila County Sheriff's Department is under investigation in connection with the disappearance of $1,600 posted as bond for a Tucson man.


Meanwhile, Gila County Dist. 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen continues his hard stance on the half-dozen fraudulent schemes and embezzlement cases that have been brought against county employees.


"We'll prosecute all of them," Christensen said. "We'll move right down the line with them, and it doesn't make any difference who they are ... (The board of supervisors) was put in here to clean up these things, and that's what we're going to do, regardless of where the chips fall."


Right now, several of those chips are falling in and around the sheriff's office.


Money trail

Initially, the amount of money reported missing from the Globe-Miami detention center last fall was $87.53. The department's latest internal report, however, places the amount at more than $300, and perhaps at more than $500.


In a Nov. 19, 1999, memo to Gila County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez, Capt. William Blank reported that the cash was found in the possession of Brunson several months after it should have been returned to its owner -- Mark Philip Snowder of Tucson, who had been arrested in Mesa for burglary and related charges.


Snowder's booking form, completed April 15, 1999, lists the personal property he had in his possession at the time of his arrest, which included $87.53 in cash.


The department's latest investigation report, however, says Snowder's holdings included at least two $50 bills and two $100 bills.


Because the money had been contaminated by fecal matter, it was placed in a plastic bio-hazard bag and handed over to Brunson.


The bag reportedly passed through several hands until Sept. 26, when Sgt. James Eskew found it in Brunson's desk -- and again on Nov. 3, when it was found in Brunson's desk again, three months after he said the money had been mailed to the Public Fiduciary in Tucson. That time, a large sum was missing from the wad of cash, Eskew reported.


Lie detector

On Feb. 6, an internal criminal investigation was launched by Criminal Investigator Howard Shapiro, who interviewed Brunson March 2 at the department's downtown office in Globe.


In his report, Shapiro wrote that he asked the Brunson if he knew what had happened to Snowder's money. The detention officer replied that he "did not know anything about this missing money." He further stated that when he soaked the money to clean it of "the fecal matter it was encased in," he was "only able to free two $50 bills, which he deposited in the bank with the commissary money he was responsible for."


However, as Shapiro prepared a computerized Voice Stress Analyzer Examination -- or "lie-detector test" -- the detention officer admitted that he stole the money, Shapiro wrote in his report.


According to Shapiro's report, Brunson said that, he was able to recover two $100 bills by soaking the cash, which he dried and later exchanged at the Bank of Globe for other bills. He then used the money for his own benefit, the report said.


Brunson also said that he was in charge of the jail commissary fund, from which he would regularly "borrow" money with the intention of paying it back. Shapiro said that Brunson indicated that he did this three to four times, each time "borrowing" $50.


It has not yet been determined whether Brunson returned the money.


More missing money

Brunson also is a suspect in a second case of missing inmate cash that belonged to Cindy Namath of Payson, Christensen said.


Namath had $575 in her possession at the time of her arrest last October for possession of marijuana. When Namath was released from the Globe jail 32 days later, she was told her money had been "misplaced," and that the department would not replace it until it had concluded an internal investigation into the matter.


The money was returned to Namath five months later, indicating that the investigation was complete.

However -- despite a written request from the Payson Roundup requesting copies of the investigation reports regarding Namath's missing cash -- no such information has been provided by the sheriff's department.


Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose "will proceed on the investigation and will in all likelihood be calling in outside investigators," Christensen said. "I'm sure it will be a few weeks before we get to the total calculations of what might be missing."


DeRose, however, is removing himself from this particular investigation.


"The Brunson case is going to be referred to another county attorney -- in Graham County -- because his wife works in my job support office," DeRose said.


Lost and found

Last February, the Roundup uncovered information regarding an additional $1,600 in cash that vanished in February 1999.


A Payson man -- who asked to remain anonymous -- posted $1,600 cash as a bail bond for his brother-in-law one weekend in May last year. His brother-in-law went to court the following Monday, which is when the bond should have been returned.


The money was finally returned six months later with no explanation other than "it had been lost."


After initial denials by sheriff's officials that the incident occurred, an investigation into the matter was eventually confirmed by Gila County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez. Weeks later, the sheriff's department's internal investigative reports into the missing $1,600 were released to this newspaper.


In the first of those reports, Det. Sgt. Tom Rasmussen said that Feb. 28, 1999, Raul T. Chaves was arrested and booked on a Maricopa County warrant.


That day, "a friend of Chaves brought $1,600 (cash) to the Payson substation and bonded Raul out," Rasmussen wrote. A deputy who was on duty at the time accepted the $1,600 and authorized Raul's release.


March 16, Maricopa County called the Payson substation requesting the bond, but it could not be located.


Contrary to standard procedure, a copy of a cashier's check or bond letter wasn't placed in the booking file, and no one who would have handled the money claimed to remember seeing it the Monday after Chaves' Saturday booking.


"There is no accounting system at the end of every shift regarding the money inside the bond box,"the report said, and security for the money was limited to "the honor system."


Deceptive results

All those who had or could have had access to the $1,600 were given Voice Stress Analyzer Examinations. The results of all but one interview were termed "non-deceptive." The exception was the deputy who had originally accepted the $1,600 cash bond, and who was interviewed April 1, 1999.


"(He) denied taking the money," the report said. "He did not have any suspicions of who took the money."


During the Voice Stress Analyzer Examination, however, the deputy's answers were deemed "deceptive" four out of five times.


"After the examination ... I asked (the deputy) if he had a checking or savings account," the examiner reported. "He explained that he did not ... This was an interesting statement. I know that (he) owns a ... business and recently purchased a house.


"It should be mentioned that after our meeting, (the deputy) resigned his position."


"We're still investigating, so I can't say one way or another (whether charges will be filed against the deputy)," DeRose said. Outside investigators have not been brought in yet, he said, "but we haven't stopped looking" at the possibilities of how the case will be handled.

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