NAVAJO COUNTY – The Silver Creek Irrigation District Board recently received a $225,000 repayment in a strange and prolonged $800,000 embezzlement case.
The Navajo County Attorney’s Office presented the check to Silver Creek Irrigation Board Members Dee Johnson and Vance Muder at the Navajo County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 11.
The money represents some of the more than $800,000 embezzled from the District between 2011 and 2016 by its bookkeeper, Harvey “Leon” Palmer.
The Navajo County Attorney’s Office filed a civil suit two years ago against Leon Palmer and his wife, Gloria Ann Palmer. The lawsuit resulted in a Stipulated Judgment and Order for Forfeiture in April.
The lawsuit accused Palmer and his wife, Gloria Ann Palmer, of multiple racketeering counts. The money for the settlement came from the seizure of the Palmer’s property at 818 East Bullduck in Taylor, along with bank accounts totaling $27,627.67, which were seized on January 26, 2017, by a Notice of Forfeiture and Seizure Warrant.
Palmer died on Feb. 8, 2018, leaving his wife Gloria as representative of the estate. In order to pay restitution to SCID, the real property and currency seized for forfeiture from Leon and Gloria Palmer were considered as the substitute assets.
Shawn Palmer, son of Leon and Gloria Palmer, was added as a potential interest holder in the real property of the home and listed land.
There was, however, no transfer or recording of a deed for the real property of Leon and Gloria Ann Palmer in Taylor by Shawn and Dicie Palmer, therefore, those items remained as substitute assets for restitution to SCID. Shawn and Dicie Palmer were given the option to purchase the real property from the State for $175,000 within 30 days of the filing of the judgment. That was accomplished, and they will now be the owners of the property.
County Attorney Jason Moore stated that the civil recovery for the members and taxpayers of the Irrigation District was only possible through the use of civil asset forfeiture law, and that without that mechanism, it is unlikely any meaningful recovery for the District would have been possible.
Moore pointed out that, “civil asset forfeiture law is an important mechanism for fighting criminal organizations and obtaining recoveries for victims.”
Moore also discussed controversy that has been raised by those opposed to civil asset forfeiture law, stating that “radical individuals on both the right and the left have been working to weaken or abolish civil asset forfeiture law. This case is a prime example of why civil asset forfeiture law is so important. Had the County Attorney’s Office been required to obtain a criminal conviction in order to proceed with civil asset forfeiture in this case, as some special interest groups advocate, there would have been no civil recovery in this case. The Irrigation District’s accountant passed away prior to the conclusion of the criminal investigation in this matter, so it was impossible to charge him, much less obtain a conviction, prior to the commencement of civil asset forfeiture proceedings.”