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Orange County

FBI Probing Payments to Jaramillo

Agents asked a company marketing a police product why it paid the O.C. sheriff's fired No. 2 man and his wife $25,000, a lawyer says.

March 24, 2004|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A lawyer for a company that paid George Jaramillo and his wife $25,000 to help market a high-tech product for law enforcement says FBI agents, who are investigating the fired Orange County assistant sheriff, questioned the firm's owner about the arrangement.

The lawyer for Charles H. Gabbard, owner of CHG Safety Technologies, said FBI agents in February wanted to know what Jaramillo did for the $15,000 the company paid him in 2000 and 2001 and why $10,000 was paid to his wife in 2000.

The company hired Jaramillo to help market a laser device that would allow police to safely disable a moving vehicle by shutting off its electrical system.

Gabbard told the FBI that Jaramillo introduced him to state and law enforcement officials who could help him win a state contract to market the product in California, said Gabbard's attorney, John Gladych. The Legislature would have to approve use of the device.

Gabbard also told the agents that CHG paid Lisa Jaramillo $10,000 on Oct. 15, 2000. A notation on the check says she was paid for consulting work, but Gladych said she never worked for the firm. He said Jaramillo told Gabbard's wife, a company officer, to make the check out to Lisa Jaramillo.

"I can't find any justification for making out the check to his wife. We don't know what it is she did to earn that money," said Gladych.

George Jaramillo declined to comment Tuesday. His lawyer, Pete Scalisi, said, "George maintains his innocence, and I believe he is innocent." He declined to comment further. Efforts to reach Lisa Jaramillo were unsuccessful. FBI officials have declined to comment on details of the investigation.

The OC Weekly, which disclosed Jaramillo's consulting deal this month, reported that he said he listed up to $10,000 in income from CHG on an annual ethics report for the county.

Jaramillo was fired last week as second in command of the Sheriff's Department. He has testified before the Orange County Grand Jury that is investigating whether he tried to protect a colleague's son from rape and drug charges.

On Thursday, the day after he was fired, Jaramillo acknowledged that the FBI wanted to question him. He hired Scalisi and said he planned to cooperate with the investigation.

George Jaramillo and Gabbard signed a two-page consulting agreement Nov. 3, 2000. Gladych said Sheriff Michael S. Carona introduced them.

The one-year pact forbade Jaramillo from performing any service for the company that would constitute a conflict of interest with his job as assistant sheriff. The contract paid Jaramillo $8,000 on Nov. 3, 2000, and $7,000 on Feb. 1, 2001.

Days after signing the agreement, Gabbard hired Jaramillo's sister-in-law, Erica Hill, as general manager of the small company at a salary of $60,000 per year, said Gladych. Hill disputed her job title, and said she worked as Gabbard's personal assistant for 2 1/2 years and left "on horrible terms." She declined to elaborate. She said the FBI had not contacted her.

The attorney said CHG is broke and that Gabbard is fighting with an investor to maintain control of the company.

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Times staff writer Christine Hanley contributed to this report.

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