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Ex-Pinal County manager admits felony scams

FLORENCE – Pinal County’s former manager could face prison after pleading guilty to six felony charges including fraud and theft, authorities said Tuesday.

Stanley Griffis, who agreed to pay restitution of about $640,000, will be sentenced May 10 by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley conducted a 13-month investigation after being hired by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to serve as a special prosecutor.

Romley said Griffis agreed Jan. 31 to plead guilty to one count of fraudulent preparation of a tax return, two counts of theft and three counts of fraud, but the deal was not announced until Tuesday.

The charges centered on four schemes, Romley said.

In one fraud activity, Griffis diverted $426,000 over several years from the Superstition Valley Transportation Project, which he headed, by placing the money in other accounts to use for such purposes as paying off car loans and buying weapons, Romley said.

Of that total, $76,000 was paid to the county by the Gila River Indian Reservation for the county’s help in putting out a fire.

Another “very, very complicated scam” involved raising the gross salary of Griffis over his last 36 months of work for the county by illegally converting vacation time to gross pay, Romley said.

Griffis’ salary was about $165,000 a year, but he boosted the total to $232,000 so that he could receive a pension of more than $12,000 a month, the prosecutor said.

In July, state retirement system officials told Griffis his monthly benefits were being trimmed by more than 30 percent.

He was required to repay nearly $28,000 in excess benefits he collected after retiring in January 2006 after 16 years with the county.

The retirement system reduced his pension to about $8,200 a month, but because Griffis legitimately was able to buy back pension credits for prior government experience, he will still receive a pension of about $9,200 a month, Romley said.

Romley said Griffis was involved in income tax fraud for 2002 through 2005 as a result of creating fictitious accounts into which he diverted other money that he told employees had been pre-taxed. Griffis owed taxes on about $308,000, authorities said.

Finally, Griffis illegally claimed reimbursement for moneys he said were owed him that actually were not, Romley said.

As an example, he cited Griffis’ claiming mileage for the use of his personal car to travel to work while also using a county-provided credit car to buy gas.

One or the other is allowed, but not both. Griffis even claimed reimbursement for mileage on his car while he was in Wisconsin, Romley said. “It was so arrogant it was unbelievable,” Romley said. “He truly violated the trust that was placed before him.”

Griffis could face up to 52 years in prison.

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