TAYLOR — With the death of Leon Palmer on Feb. 8, the possibility of criminal charges against him in the loss of $808,000 from the Silver Creek Irrigation District that he allegedly stole, has ended.
Palmer, 78, was never charged with a crime in the alleged theft, which occurred during a six-year period, from about 2011-2016, according to court documents. Palmer was the bookkeeper for the Silver Creek Irrigation District for 42 years.
According to Navajo County Attorney, Brad Carlyon, his office is proceeding with the civil forfeiture aspect of the case, in an attempt to recoup some of the assets of the irrigation district. The case was filed on March 14, 2017. A Notice of Seizure and Racketeering Lien was recorded on the19-acre Taylor property owned by Leon Palmer and his wife, Gloria, in January of last year. The state also seized $27,627 in cash from the Palmers.
The complaint alleges Leon Palmer participated in “conduct including, but not limited to, fraudulent schemes and artifices, theft, forgery, money laundering, (and) misuse of public funds.”
Leon Palmer told investigators with Navajo County Sheriff’s Office in January, 2017, that he had been cashing checks written on the irrigation district’s account and giving the money to Margaret “Peggy” Rogers, a woman with whom he told the investigators he had been having a sexual relationship.
Further, Palmer told investigators that he “loaned” the money to Rogers who needed it for “a diabetic study” hoping to earn a better interest rate than what the bank offered. He also told them she never repaid any of the loans he made to her with irrigation district money.
Rogers allegedly spent the money at a number of casinos in Arizona and surrounding states.
The civil suit seeks to recoup whatever funds it can on behalf of the Silver Creek Irrigation District, which is a public, taxpayer-funded body.
In an email to The Independent sent last November, Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon said the criminal aspect of the case was still under investigation, and that any parties involved with the theft could still potentially be charged with a criminal offense. But no criminal charges were ever filed against Palmer. His wife Gloria is also named in the civil suit, and a supplemental civil action was filed against Margaret “Peggy” Rogers, and her husband Russell Rogers.
In a review of bank statements conducted by investigators for the period of Sept. 30, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016, an amount totaling $196,400 was taken by Palmer from a Silver Creek Irrigation District account, with amounts averaging about $11,000 per month. According to the civil complaint, the checks were made out to ‘cash,’ and signed by Palmer.
“Based on the fact that …the money is no longer in Palmer’s possession…and further, the money was spent by Mrs. Rogers on her gambling habit…it (is) unlikely that any significant money will ever be recovered from her for the taxpayers of the District,” the civil complaint concludes.
Some assets were also seized from Margaret and Russell Rogers, including $1,642 in cash, a 1993 GMC truck, some firearms, jewelry and a kitchen mixer.
“We’re in the middle of a civil forfeiture action,” Carlyon said, noting that the assets in the case are frozen until the court makes a determination in the case. He said that audit of the irrigation district’s accounts is also being conducted as part of the civil case.
Complicating the civil action is the fact that the Palmer’s son, Shawn Palmer, is claiming to have purchased the Palmer’s property in Taylor from his parents. His attorney has supplied the court with a handwritten ledger and a “land and home purchase agreement” Shawn Palmer purportedly wrote in 2004. Payments were allegedly made in cash. No purchase or deed was ever recorded for the property in Shawn Palmer’s name, however, and court documents say that none of his siblings was aware of the agreement. Because of these factors, “the state has concerns regarding the authenticity of the land and home purchase agreement,” the civil complaint states.
The most recent action in the case was filed Dec. 1, 2017, according to Arizona Courts Online.