Trump candidate to head Border Patrol is under FBI investigation

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One of three candidates reportedly being vetted by President Donald Trump to head the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency — which oversees the U.S. Border Patrol — is being investigated by federal authorities over his former agency's use of RICO funds, or money and assets seized during criminal investigations. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scandal-plagued former Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Babeu is no stranger to the national stage. He frequently appears on cable news channels as a hawkish expert on border enforcement — despite the fact that the county he oversaw for eight years covers precisely none of the U.S. border with Mexico (it does include a preferred corridor for drug and human smugglers, including the Vekol Valley, a prime avenue for criminal activity that originates below the border.) For years he was a conservative darling and a rising star in Republican politics who talked tough about immigration and even appeared in a 2010 campaign ad for Senator John McCain advocating for a border fence.

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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
A gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence is seen outside Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Men talk on a street in the town of Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol officer stands at a border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Recent arrivals from Mexico wait to board a greyhound bus in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Highway 82 towards Douglas, Arizona is seen near Sonoita, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Clouds float above the border towns of Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A sign warning drivers that firearms and ammunition are prohibited in Mexico is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Buildings in Nogales, Mexico (R) are separated by a border fence from Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A worker makes his way through the water after setting up an irrigation system on an agricultural field, near Calexico, California, U.S. October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A church at the Museum of History in Granite is seen in Felicity, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man drives a tractor plowing a field at sunrise near Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Residential homes are seen next to the fence that borders Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians wait to cross the street in Calexico, California, Unites States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The town of Bisbee is seen in Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians make their way into the the United States from Mexico at the pedestrian border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A roadside collection of alien dolls and toy UFO saucers is seen next to a roadside residence neat Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A road abruptly ends next to a sign for a cattle ranch near Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A boy rides an all-terrain vehicle next Mexican border along the Buttercup San Dunes in California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An old refurbished gas station is seen in Lowell, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A man rides a tricycle past a grocery store in a town that borders Mexico, in San Luis Butter, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol truck drives past the fence that marks the border between U.S. and Mexico, in Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A truck drives west towards California along highway 8 near Gila Bend, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Electronic items are displayed in a shop window in Calexico, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A residential home is seen in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A fence separates the border towns of Nogales, Mexico (R) and Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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While Babeu may be known in the world of cable news as an immigration hardliner, back at home in the Grand Canyon State he's better remembered for a massive scandal in 2012 that ultimately discredited the down-on-brown rhetoric he spewed on Fox News, forced him to come out of the closet as a "gay American" and cost him a job as the Arizona co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. As Babeu was exploring a run for Congress, the Phoenix New Times broke a story that the then-sheriff had been involved in a sexual relationship with a man named Jose Orozco. The two met on a gay dating site in 2006 and began a years-long relationship. In the middle of their lengthy affair, Orozco caught Babeu using a different dating site under the handle "studboi1." As if a tough-talking conservative sheriff being outed as gay wasn't shocking enough for voters in rural Pinal County, Orozco also happened to be in the country illegally and claimed that Babeu threatened him with deportation if he ever revealed their relationship publicly — an allegation the former sheriff denies.

(Note: I worked at the Phoenix New Times in 2012 when it broke the story about Babeu's beau and I frequently covered him and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.)

But Babeu's penchant for scandal goes beyond dating an illegal immigrant and allegedly threatening him with deportation; lest we forget the school — described by one member of Congress as a "place of horrors" — he ran for troubled youth before he became sheriff.

From 1999 to 2001, Babeu was the headmaster and executive director at the DeSisto School in Massachusetts, where allegations of physical and sexual abuse were rampant. ABC 15, in Phoenix, Arizona, investigated the allegations and unearthed video of Babeu bragging about abusing students, some of whom had psychological disorders. A state investigation of the school found that in addition to physical abuse, students "strip searched" each other and "routinely took group showers"..."leading to sexual abuse." In an even more shocking allegation, made by Babeu's own sister, she claimed the former sheriff had a sexual relationship with one of the students from the school. Lucy Babeu told ABC 15 that she found her brother living with the young man.

"I said what is this student from DeSisto doing here? He says, 'Lucy, he's my boyfriend. I love him,'" she told the station. "I said Paul get a hold of yourself here. You were his teacher! You were his Executive Director! You can't do this."

It's worth noting that Lucy Babeu brought similar allegations about her brother to myself and my colleagues at the Phoenix New Times in both 2011 and 2012 but we were unable to verify them. We also questioned her credibility as she appeared to have an ax to grind with her brother, who at that time was beginning to make a name for himself as an anti-immigrant hardliner.

As for his latest brush with scandal, local media outlets in Arizona reported on Monday that FBI agents seized a number of items from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office that were related to Babeu's time as sheriff. According to Pinalcentral.com, the items include a number of hard drives and cell phones that belonged to members of Babeu's administration. It's unclear what federal authorities are investigating, but the publication points out that it "comes months after an organization with ties to PCSO was subpoenaed by the FBI."

That organization is the Arizona Public Safety Foundation, a non-profit that raises money for law enforcement and other first responders that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in RICO funds that went through Babeu's office and was signed off on by the now-former county attorney of Pinal County. RICO money is intended to be used to fund additional anti-racketeering operations, so any RICO funds given to the foundation must be used for that purpose. But critics believe the foundation was used as a "slush fund" for Babeu and his PCSO cronies; they would give RICO money to the foundation and the foundation would give it back by paying for things the PCSO wanted, allowing the department to sidestep government purchasing procurement laws.

In 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging that Babeu was using the APSF as a way to essentially launder RICO funds and funnel them back into the PCSO.

"At a minimum, it seems that by funneling money to a private group which buys things for him and his department, Defendant (Sheriff Paul) Babeu is able to avoid procurement laws and other transparency regulations which usually apply to government purchasing," the ACLU's complaint stated.

Trump is yet to make a decision on who will head up the CBP, but given his sordid past, Babeu seems like he would fit right into a Trump administration that already is rife with turmoil, and seems hell-bent on booting 11 million people back across the border.

21 PHOTOS
The US border town built on Mexican produce
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The US border town built on Mexican produce
A man in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico looks through the U.S. border fence into Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Trucks wait to carry shipments of vegetables from Mexico to the rest of the U.S. at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Quality Control Inspector Gilberto Nunez, 50, checks vegetables at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Matt Mandel, VP Operations for SunFed, (R) watches Quality Control Inspector Gilberto Nunez, 50, pack vegetables at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Workers unload shipments of vegetables from Mexico at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Nogales, Arizona, U.S. is seen from the abutting town of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The international border port crossing to Mexico is seen in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Truck driver Howard Casale, 64, prepares to carry shipments of vegetables from Mexico to Boston at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mauricio Felix, 38, (R) washes dishes with Alejandro Galindo, 42, in his family's restaurant, Rancho Grande, in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Trucks and cars cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Matt Mandel, VP Operations, views tomatoes at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Quality Control Inspector Gilberto Nunez, 50, checks vegetables at SunFed produce packing and shipping warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 30, 2017. Picture taken January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The U.S. border with Mexico is seen in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
People in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico are seen through the U.S. border fence as they queue to cross into Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman walks toward the U.S. border port with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man walks past a grocery store next to the U.S. border port with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man sits next to the U.S. border port with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Border Patrol Agent David Ruiz patrols the U.S. border with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The U.S. border with Mexico is seen in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The U.S. border with Mexico is seen in Nogales, Arizona, U.S., January 31, 2017. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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The post Trump Candidate To Head Border Patrol Is Under FBI Investigation appeared first on Vocativ.

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