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Ex-county assessor pleads guilty in bribery corruption case

April 26, 2022 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A former southern Arizona county official has pleaded guilty in a bribery corruption case in which he took cash and favors for reducing assessed values of properties so the landowner would save on taxes.

Former Santa Cruz County Assessor Felipe Fuentes, 62, of Nogales could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined $250,000 after pleading guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, according to his plea agreement with prosecutors.

The plea agreement said Fuentes admitted taking $20,000 in cash payments and was given free use of a 17-acre (7-hectare) ranch property owned by one of the landowner’s entities

Court documents identified the landowner and another person acting on the landowner’s behalf only as Person A and Person B.

“Property taxes pay for critical local government services that support our communities,” United States Attorney Gary Restaino said in a statement. “Fuentes abused the public trust when he reduced the assessed value of property, and by doing so diverted money away from Santa Cruz County in order to serve his own self-interest.”

Fuentes’s sentencing is set for Aug. 2.