Mike Ramos

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 11/06/13, 9:50 PM PST |
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SAN BERNARDIN0 >> In March 2011, District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and then-Sheriff Rod Hoops announced the indictment of seven current or former Sheriff’s Department employees accused of falsifying training records to gain pay raises.

According to Ramos, Hoops and grand jury transcripts, Sheriff’s Department employees ranging from civilian training specialists to an assistant sheriff had gamed the system for at least a decade and bilked taxpayers out of as much as $100,000.

The seven defendants, charged with multiple felony offenses, including grand theft, criminal conspiracy and perjury, were: retired sheriff’s Capt. Hobart “Bart” Gray; his wife, sheriff’s training specialist Angela Gray; Lt. Russell Wilke; retired Lt. Bill Maddox; training specialist Sallyann Christian; Cpl. David Pichotta and retired Assistant Sheriff Michael Stodelle.

Hoops called it a sad day for his department. Ramos vowed that justice would be served.

“We will hold these people responsible,” Ramos said during the 2011 news conference at his office.

More than two years later, charges have been dropped against Maddox and Wilke, and plea agreements with Angela Gray and Pichotta have reduced the felonies they faced to a single misdemeanor charge for each.

The case is still proceeding against Christian, Stodelle and Bart Gray, the former commander of the sheriff’s Yucaipa substation. The three are scheduled to appear in court Friday for a pretrial hearing.

Maddox’s attorney, Michael Scafiddi, criticized the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation and called it ‘sloppy.’ He said investigators never even interviewed Maddox, who after he was indicted produced documentation and other evidence that ultimately exonerated him in July 2012.

“With my client it was a rush to judgment,” Scafiddi said in a telephone interview. “It was a poor investigation and my client should have never been charged with a crime. What’s ironic is my client’s own department were the ones that caused this problem.”

Hoops has since resigned as sheriff to take a job with a law enforcement think tank in Washington D.C. headed by former Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann.

Ramos declined to comment for this story. His spokesman, Christopher Lee, said Ramos felt it would be inappropriate to discuss the case while it is still pending,

Prosecutor Dan Silverman concurred that evidence dug up by defense attorneys since the indictment has negated some of the evidence he and sheriff’s investigators gathered during their two-year investigation.

Additionally, Silverman said, there’s the added complexity of prosecuting law enforcement officials, with whom juries tend to sympathize.

“It’s all these factors we take into account,” Silverman said. “Justice is messy.”

The case against Wilke went the same direction. In February, Silverman dropped felony perjury, attempted grand theft and criminal conspiracy charges against the lieutenant in “the interest of justice.”

Wilke’s attorney, Chuck Nascin, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Also in February, defendant Pichotta agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of grand theft. In exchange for his plea, the felony perjury, grand theft and criminal conspiracy charges originally filed against him were dismissed.

And in August, defendant Angela Gray, who according to grand jury testimony was the central figure in the corruption case, pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of aiding in a crime after striking a plea agreement with prosecutors. In exchange for her plea, all six of the felonies she was originally charged with – three counts of criminal conspiracy, two counts of attempted grand theft and one count of grand theft, were dismissed.

The alleged crimes occurred at the sheriff’s Advanced Officer Training facility in Devore, which is credentialied by the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST. It offers classes both at the training facility and through San Bernardino Valley College that enable sheriff’s employees to earn POST certificates that qualify them for pay raises.

The case began as an internal affairs investigation in August 2009 when Deputy Michelle Grossi walked into the training facility and submitted paperwork in an attempt to obtain her advanced POST certificate. But secretary Jody Hanson noticed two F grades on Grossi’s transcripts as well as deficiencies in other training requirements and courses.

When questioned about the discrepancies and grades, Grossi, according to grand jury testimony, became nervous. Angela Gray, who accompanied Grossi to the academy that day, insisted a mistake had been made and demanded that a call be placed to San Bernardino Valley College to see about getting the F grades changed to As.

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