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Mon, Oct. 25

Briefs | Arizona reports 2,254 additional virus cases, 74 more deaths

PHOENIX – Arizona on Tuesday reported 2,254 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74 more virus death, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 1,106,789 cases and 20,211 deaths.

The state’s coronavirus dashboard also reported that the number of virus-related hospitalizations increased slightly, with 1,786 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds as of Monday.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona rose over the past two weeks, increasing from 2,563.6 on Sept. 19 to 2,601 on Sunday. Meanwhile, the rolling average of daily deaths hardly changed, dropping from 46.6 to 46.4 during the same period.

Ex-county official acknowledges misusing public money

FLAGSTAFF – A former Coconino County official who went on to oversee Navajo County’s health department has pleaded guilty to three felony charges stemming from his acknowledged misuse of public money to cover $84,000 in personal expenses.

Jeffrey P. Lee, 47, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of theft and two counts of violating his duties as a custodian of public money.

His plea agreement calls for probation on two of the three convictions and the payment of restitution to Coconino County for $82,500 and to Navajo County for $1,700. If he’s sentenced to probation on the third conviction, he’ll be required to serve at least nine months in jail.

The charges against Lee were filed after a state audit found that he used purchase cards issued to him in Navajo and Coconino counties for personal benefit and falsified information in records.

The case was filed in Coconino County where Lee previously worked as an emergency preparedness manager from August 2012 until April 2017.

According to the audit, Lee bought $82,550 worth of gift cards and spent them on his family, himself or his personal outfitting business.

Auditors say the practice continued at Navajo County, where he was terminated from his job overseeing Navajo County’s health department.

Phoenix police: Young girl dies in car’s power window mishap

PHOENIX – A young girl has died after playing inside a parked car in west Phoenix and having a power window roll up on her, according to authorities.

Phoenix police say the accident occurred around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The girl’s name and age haven’t been released yet. Police said the girl was taken to the hospital in critical condition and she later died.

According to police, there are no signs of foul play at this time. Police said it will be up to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner to determine the cause and manner of death.

Body found southwest of Tucson; Called a suspicious death

TUCSON – Authorities said Monday that they are investigated a suspicious death southwest of Tucson. Pima County Sheriff’s officials said a body was found in Three Points, a community of about 5,500 people.

Sheriff’s officials said the body hasn’t been identified yet. No other information was released.

Man sentenced for fraudulent tax refunds

PORTLAND, Ore. – A Florida man has been sentenced to over four years in federal prison for filing hundreds of fake tax returns in several states, including Oregon, federal prosecutors said.

Damian Barrett of Homestead, Florida, filed 745 fake tax returns in 19 different states from 2015 to 2018, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Barrett, 40, owned two Florida-based tax preparation companies, Max Tax Experts LLC and Winngate Tax Services LLC, according to court documents. He used the first company to submit tax returns for legitimate clients and the second company to submit fraudulent income tax returns.

Barrett sought nearly $900,000 in fraudulent tax refunds and received over $234,000 – $130,000 of which came from the Oregon Department of Revenue. He had filed 348 tax returns with the state requesting more than $322,000 in refunds.

He also intentionally excluded more than $21,000 in income from his personal income tax return in 2016 and didn’t file a personal income tax return in 2017.

In 2020, a federal grand jury in Portland indicted Barrett on mail fraud and laundering. He was later charged with mail fraud, filing a false tax return and aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty to all three charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon sentenced Barrett to 54 months in prison followed by three years of probation, according to prosecutors. He also ordered Barrett to pay more than $234,000 in restitution to 11 states, including the taxing authorities in Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina, and more than $74,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors said.

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