'Dirty, Stupid or Both'

Never mind the photo: Sheriff Carona denies Mafia ties

Of course, Glusman isn't responsible for the actions of his patrons. But you might expect that his friendship with Rizzolo and other mob associates would disqualify him from membership in any law-enforcement agency in the U.S. Thanks to Carona, you'd be wrong. Sometime between 2002 and 2004 (the sheriff's department refuses to say when), Carona gave Glusman and Nevada casino owner Gary Primm (another campaign contributor) official Orange County sheriff's badges and swore them in as reserve deputies. The ceremony didn't take place in public or in the sober offices of the sheriff's Santa Ana headquarters: it happened inside the Ritz, just a few feet from the bar. Along with the badges, Carona, dressed in full uniform, brought taxpayer-funded presents: engraved bottles of wine and a cake (white icing and strawberries) with the inscription, "Congratulations Sheriff Glusman and Sheriff Primm."

Sheriff's department officials, including Carona, claim everyone who receives a badge has been cleared by a thorough background check. But law-enforcement sources say the sheriff gave Glusman and Primm badges before real deputies were allowed to vet them.

(Carona did not respond to the Weekly's request to publicly release the dates of the Glusman/Primm swearing-in ceremony and the completion of the background checks.)

In between white Russians: Carona swears in Glusman and Primm mere feet from the Ritz bar. OC Weekly photo
In between white Russians: Carona swears in Glusman and Primm mere feet from the Ritz bar. OC Weekly photo

It didn't take long for Glusman to abuse his power. In July, a Newport Beach shop owner refused to let Glusman use a private parking space. Glusman cursed and flashed his sheriff's badge. "How do you like that?" he yelled. The shop owner, a former cop, wasn't impressed. He reported the incident to police. Glusman resigned in October before internal-affairs agents could finish their investigation.

Carona, who reneged last April on his pledge to relinquish control of the sheriff's department after two terms, has presided over an ethical mess. Several women have filed sexual harassment complaints against him. The attorney general's office is investigating the sheriff's questionable use of $130,000 in campaign funds. George Jaramillo, his longtime No. 1 deputy, faces bribery charges. Attorney Joe Cavallo, his longtime drinking buddy, was arrested for an alleged bail bonds scheme at the Orange County jail. Liquor-store owner Jack Henshaw, a major Carona donor whose identity was concealed for years, was fined $200,000 for attempting to bribe a federal court official. Raymond Yi, his personal martial arts instructor, allegedly flashed a sheriff's badge and pointed a gun at fellow golfers. POST, a state police licensing agency, refused to recognize 87 individuals Carona had deputized without thorough background checks or training requirements. Don Haidl, a wealthy businessman who won appointment as assistant sheriff after raising the most money for Carona's first campaign, paid the state attorney general's office $104,000 to end a whistleblower action alleging fraudulant business deals. Charles Gabbard, the largest individual contributor to Carona's 2002 re-election campaign, is a convicted felon (murder, robbery, burglary) seeking police agency contracts; last year, the Weekly disclosed that Carona had promised Gabbard the free use of inmate labor at the same time Gabbard was funneling $29,000 in illegal contributions to the sheriff's campaign.

It's a record that's in stark contrast to promises Carona made in his first months in office seven years ago.

"No one is ever going to get close enough to me to compromise me," the sheriff said. "It just won't happen."

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