KINGMAN, Ariz. — Jacob Barlow, chief of the Colorado City Fire District in northern Arizona, has been indicted on three counts of participating in or assisting in a criminal syndicate and 27 counts of “violating the duties of a custodian of public monies.”
The indictment dated Aug. 4 alleged that district funds, from $8,000 to $38,000 at a time, were transferred illegally into traditional bank accounts. It details offenses from February 2004 until search warrants were served in April 2010.
The name of a second defendant charged in portions of the indictment has not been disclosed.
Authorities served search warrants at fire stations, at Barlow’s home and at the home of David Darger, the Colorado City town manager who served as secretary/treasurer of the fire district in April 2010.
Boxes of receipts and other evidence seized during the searches were taken to Kingman, where Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said it would take months to review the materials.
An affidavit for the search warrants indicated authorities were investigating misuse of fire district funds for travel, motels, meals, groceries, gifts, furniture, computer equipment and other items.
“I’m actually fairly mystified that they would bring these charges, but I’m not surprised,” said Barlow’s attorney, Michael Piccarreta, calling it a “frivolous prosecution.”
He said his client will be vindicated of any misuse of public funds.
“We will present evidence that every dime was spent for, and on behalf of, the government entity,” Piccarreta said.
At the time of the April 2010 searches, Piccarreta suggested the investigation was another example of heavy-handed law enforcement efforts in Mohave County. Piccarreta was then serving as defense counsel for polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, whose Arizona case was dismissed before his recent conviction and life prison sentence in Texas for sexual assault convictions involving underage girls.
Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has about 6,000 followers in Colorado City and the neighboring city of Hildale, Utah.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney James Schoppmann said the investigation began in January 2008 after a manager of a restaurant in St. George, Utah, reported that Barlow had used a fire district credit card to buy lunch for his wife.
Barlow, 55, who has not been arrested, is expected to be arraigned early next week in Mohave County Superior Court.