A federal judge has ordered the county to resume a civil $18 million racketeering suit against three defendants after they were convicted of criminal charges.
The county's attorneys are pursuing a case that seeks to collect as much of the money as possible from attorney David Escobar, former state Rep. and County Judge Luther Jones, and former County Commissioner Betti Flores. Each has been convicted of public corruption and the county is seeking to recoup funds from what it says were their corrupt schemes.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone stopped the case in January 2010 as criminal cases against Escobar and Jones made their way through the courts. But in October, after Escobar -- the last of these three defendants -- pleaded guilty, Cardone issued an order to re-start the racketeering suit.
Several developers, whom the county had accused of paying Flores in 2007 to support selling them land for less than it was worth, have been dropped from the suit. The developers, who admit no wrongdoing, settled the case in 2010, after paying the county $600,000 and going through court-ordered arbitration.
Also in 2010, the county dismissed its suit against local lawyer and former County Commissioner Martie Jobe, although it reserved the right to refile the suit if "significant admissible evidence of Jobe's culpability comes to light during the trial of the criminal cases or the ongoing federal public-corruption investigations..." the settlement agreement says.
The county is suing Jones, Escobar and Flores over four separate matters:
The developers "have adamantly denied any and all alleged liability or wrongdoing, and whereas the county maintains its claims were brought for the benefit of its citizens and in good faith..." the Oct. 10, 2010 settlement agreement says.
Since the suit is filed under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, it's entitled to treble damages -- or $18 million -- the suit says. It's unclear, however, whether any of the remaining defendants in the suit has that much money.
Flores pleaded guilty in July 2007 to six counts of mail and wire fraud and admitted trading her votes for money. She has not been sentenced.
Jones was convicted in 2011 of attempting to rig the digitization contract. Jones was sentenced to six years in prison.
Jones and Escobar also pleaded guilty last year to their roles in a scheme to corruptly steer $100 million in government-employee health insurance business to Access HealthSource. They'll be sentenced on Feb. 20.
Marty Schladen may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6127.