Internal Affairs

Ex-Orange County assistant sheriff George Jaramillo pleaded no contest Monday to two felonies and agreed to a year in jail. Here is a story from our archives about how Sheriff Mike Carona and his top deputy planned a dynasty

Indeed, FBI agents have records of Jaramillo's calls to Friedland's phone in August and September 2003. For example, on August 5, 2003, Jaramillo repeatedly called the porn star in the morning as he drove to LA and then phoned two hotels, according to the records. During one seven-minute period that day, the assistant sheriff called the woman seven times.

In a brief interview with the Weekly,Friedland knew of Jaramillo but said she was unaware of a grand jury investigation. "I'm not going to confirm anything about anything," she said. "You've caught me off-guard."

Jaramillo denies an affair.

But it wasn't just a porn star linked to the assistant sheriff. He allegedly looked for sexual gratification in public places. In 1999—not long after Carona-Jaramillo took over the sheriff's department—an undercover narcotics deputy observed Jaramillo "getting oral sex" inside his official silver Crown Victoria at a Huntington Beach parking lot, grand jury records show. Though Jaramillo had an innocent explanation—he was giving the woman "legal advice," the incident created a "large firestorm" at the department.

"George would tell me the story that there was no way the team, which was the narcotics team, could have seen him getting any kind of oral sex in the car because it had dark tinted windows," Hood testified. "Later, much later, George disclosed that the woman was [we've deleted the name of a county employee], and he also said that he was getting oral sex in the car."

The grand jury also heard rumors about an incident involving Jaramillo and a prostitute in Anaheim, as well as the assistant sheriff's sexual overtures to several secretaries, including one who was promised college admissions help during a long-term affair.

A source who worked closely with Jaramillo for several years said the man was insatiable. "He expected women to do things for him—especially on his birthdays," the source said. "It's like he felt entitled to sex, and he'd pout and sulk until women gave him what he wanted. Then he'd take nude photos of the women. I think the pictures were the trophies of his conquests."

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It's not easy for a high-ranking cop to attract FBI scrutiny. But it wasn't Jaramillo's sex life that interested agents. It was his finances and the still publicly unresolved question: Did he use his public office for kickbacks or scams?

Jaramillo and his family live in a modest, often-refinanced South County house purchased in 1994 before the real estate rush. Thanks to his powerful badge, Jaramillo shot into Orange County's high society. Millionaire businessmen with ocean-view estates, breathtaking yachts and the latest cars wanted to be his friend. They invited him to lunches and dinners or weekend boat cruises.

Hobnobbing with the rich made Jaramillo all the more determined to share their lifestyle. When he traveled to Washington, D.C., on official business, he repeatedly checked into opulent hotel rooms near the White House. For example, during a three-day 2002 trip, he rented a $365 per night room at the Willard Inter-Continental. On another trip that year, he stayed at the J.W. Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue at a cost of $354 per night, according to records obtained by the Weekly.

Jaramillo wanted to supplement his county pay. He helped get his wife Lisa, a professional fund-raiser, several jobs raising money for local politicians (including Carona, Rackauckas and state Assemblyman Todd Spitzer) and law enforcement-related charities. At times, the pay was extraordinary. She took $40,000 in proceeds from a single-night charity event for the sheriff's reserves.

The assistant sheriff also sought consulting work for himself and found, among others, Charles Gabbard, owner of CHG Safety Technologies Inc. in Newport Beach. Gabbard paid Jaramillo $15,000 for light work over a three-month period and $10,000 to Lisa, who admits she did nothing for the money.

During a recent court appearance, Gabbard—a convicted felon—called the payments "bribes" but struggled to say what he was buying other than Jaramillo's endorsement of his product, a laser gun and vehicle chip designed to safely end police pursuits. Last September, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed felony corruption charges against Jaramillo and his sister-in-law Erica Hill. Jaramillo had gotten her a job at CHG and then, according to the DA's office, plotted a hostile takeover of Gabbard's company.

The FBI's Santa Ana field office, working in conjunction with federal prosecutors in LA, has reviewed the CHG affair—which involved tens of thousands of dollars in illegal corporate campaign contributions to Carona—but so far has filed no charges. Agents have also investigated allegations of other kickback schemes, influence peddling, income-tax evasion and an out-of-state bank account. One includes a plot to pressure county inmates to hire certain defense attorneys who would then pay a reward to participating deputies. Another involves a plan to favor tow truck operators willing to share their financial windfall.

In recent weeks, federal prosecutors interviewed Jaramillo. Sources say a PowerPoint presentation outlined a pending corruption case tied to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The agents wanted to know if the ex-assistant sheriff had any information to share. Jaramillo adamantly denied the meeting. "Didn't happen," he said.

* * *

When Sheriff Carona invited Jaramillo to dinner at Santa Ana's Antonello Ristorante in August 2003, he had a painful secret to share. The men were self-described "brothers," "close" confidantes and "partners" since their underdog campaign won the sheriff's department in 1999. Their success bred a daring plan: Carona would serve as sheriff for the first half of a 16-year dynasty while grooming Jaramillo as his successor.

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