Monday, April 6, 2009

Mike Carona, A Blogography Chapter 3

CARONA AND THE GANG OF FOUR! From Left to Right: Joseph Cavallo, Mike Schroeder, Don Haidl and George Jaramillo

To truly understand this entire sordid tale, one must understand the Inner Circle who surrounded Carona and influenced his decision making. We must go back in time to the beginning to truly see the culture of corruption that invaded Orange County. The inner circle of George Jaramillo, Don Haidl, Joe Cavallo and Mike Schroeder was an interesting alliance indeed. While the first three simply sought power for themselves, Mike Schroeder was in it to empower the Republican Party. I guess you can say Schroeder was the least selfish of them all, since he was not 100% in it for himself. He was the odd man out in that his goals were not the same as the first three, but they were corrupt nonetheless.

In 1998, when Carona first ran for Sheriff against Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, he got the support of the GOP establishment thanks to Schroeder, who was also helping D.A. candidate Tony Rackauckas. At the same time, Haidl, Jaramillo(fresh from being fired from the Garden Grove PD) and Cavallo saw a way to basically run the show in Orange County. They were obsessed with being “powerbrokers” and dreamt of running a political machine much like Daley in Chicago or Tammany Hall in New York. Walters seemed a little too honest for their taste, so the best choice was a little known Federal Bailiff named Mike Carona.

Carona did not come from a law enforcement background in the traditional sense, instead he was a lifelong bailiff for the Federal Courts rising through the ranks to a Federal Marshall, although he never was out in the field. He actually gained a reputation for being honest, ethical and hard working. Many people who know him personally have told me that they classify him into two times, BS- BEFORE SHERIFF and AE- AFTER ELECTION. Many close friends of his were wary from the very start of Haidl(who made his fortune as a used car salesman) and Jaramillo. They warned Carona, to no avail. It did not take long for Haidl, Jaramillo and Cavallo’s corrupt lifestyle to rub off on Carona, and rub off it did.

Many people who knew Carona try to put the blame on the gang of four, but ultimately, Carona is responsible for his own actions. They never forced him to do a single illegal act. He decided he loved their lifestyle of life in the fast lane. He ultimately threw away his lifestyle of honesty, fidelity and ethics for a lifestyle of lies, sex and greed. It was a lifestyle Haidl and Jaramillo provided Carona as they used taxpayer funded helicopters for jaunts to Vegas to party like rock stars. In once gambling escapade in Lake Tahoe, Don Haidl spoke of an incident where he gave over $4,000 worth of Black Jack chips to Carona, which he blew in minutes(someone obviously never listened to Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler).

Their lives could have made for an interesting Aaron Spelling show. Carona took up a permanent mistress with famed realtor Debra Hoffman, but she was far from the only “other” woman. Some of the other women were Russian interpreter, Vegas showgirls, and even the wives of rank and file officers. Jaramillo even offered up his own secretary as a sex toy for Carona.

In the meantime, this inner circle turned to old fashioned shakedowns in order to keep the flow of money to their pockets, this is where defense attorney Joseph Cavallo comes in. Cavallo was considered a very good and very shrewd defense attorney in Orange County. He struck up a friendship with Haidl and Jaramillo, who in turn introduced him to Carona. Together this little section of the Gang of Four was complete. They even used the jails and the inmates to spread their culture of corruption. They shook down bail bondsmen to “invest” into a pool that would get them new business. In turn they were to “refer”, more like intimidate accused suspects to use the services of Joseph Cavallo.

Bail bondsmen who signed on to their little scheme and paid the “fee” were referred business as well. Newly arrested inmates booked into the Central County or Theo Lacy Jail near the Block were “encouraged” by inmates to use the services of these bondsmen. Of course this encouragement usually involved a couple of punches to the stomach and face, especially of the inmate hesitated at their “offer.” In return, the families of these inmates under the employ of Cavallo’s and Carona’s bondsmen were given a share of the “protection” money. This practice continued among some of these bondsmen even after Cavallo’s scheme came apart and Carona’s indictment.

This culture of corruption was the order of the day, and all this was known to the fourth member of the inner circle, Mike Schroeder. Schroeder had a different goal though, his was to make the Republican Party of Orange County into a monolithic organization by any means possible. He knew having control of the DA and the Sheriff would allow the party to operate at a level of corruption not seen in years without worry of consequences. He encouraged the Sheriff to hire his friends as consultants or reserve Sheriff’s such as Adam Probolsky and Jon Fleischman. He influenced Carona to give official badges to Republican insiders in Orange County and campaign donors such as Casino owner Gary Primm(pictured at right), many of whom took advantage of this and abused this system to get special treatment. Then, in the most egregious abuse of power of all, Schroeder had Carona give Concealed Weapon Permits to all prominent Republicans throughout the county, many of whom should never have received them. One recipient of these CCW’s pulled a gun out on men in a golf course who were moving too slow.

The DA and the Sheriff were nothing more than slaves to the GOP and their culture of corruption flourished. Rackauckas sat in silence as voters were disenfranchised, who were being shaken down or outright secretly switched by meth and cocaine addicts to register Republican. It was only with public outcry and an OC Register investigation that this was brought to an end. In fact the house of cards all began to come down in the summer of 2002, just after Carona was dubbed “America’s Sheriff” when Don Haidl’s son Gregory Haidl and his two friends Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann videotaped themselves raping an unconscious girl.

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