Sheriff Michael Carona, 53, of Orange County, California was nicknamed “America’s Sheriff” about five years ago by CNN talk-show host Larry King. Carona’s time as “America’s Sheriff” may be coming to an end, however. Corona’s own criminal trial began Oct. 28 after being indicted for fraud and corruption. His charges include:
- Mail fraud
- Witness tampering
His wife, Deborah Carona, is also charged with conspiracy and will be tried separately. Carona’s alleged mistress, Debra Hoffman, a lawyer, is charged with conspiracy, bankruptcy fraud and mail fraud; she will stand trial with Carona. Sheriff Carona was in his third term when he was indicted; he stepped down to concentrate on his legal defense.
$700,000 in Bribes
The federal prosecutors’ case against Carona accuses him of accepting cash, gifts, questionable loans and kickbacks amounting to nearly $700,000 in exchange for political favors. Many of the bribes came from Newport Beach businessman Don Haidl, who was made an assistant sheriff by Carona. Haidl agreed to become an undercover informant for the government last year.
Secret Recordings of Conversations
Conversations that were secretly recorded by one of Carona’s former assistant sheriffs, George Jaramillo, are expected to play a major role in the prosecution’s case. Jaramillo, 48, was also Carona’s confidant until he was fired by Carona; he is expected to testify for the prosecution.
Sheriff Carona was nicknamed “America’s Sheriff” after a child-kidnapping case (that of five-year-old Samantha Runnion) rocketed him into the national spotlight. In his interview on CNN, Carona looked straight into the camera and told the child’s kidnapper not to eat or sleep â€" his deputies were hot on his trail. Her kidnapper and murderer, Alejandro Avila, was later apprehended.
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