Colorado Union Embezzlers Still on the Job

Three Denver sheriff’s deputies, who were also union bosses, with criminal convictions in the past year for embezzling union funds were not disciplined and did not miss a day of work. All they were required to do was return the stolen money. Despite their convictions, Capt. Lenny Ortiz and deputies Joe Sanchez and Venita Ruybal never spent a day in the jail they guard each day. None has been disciplined by their department, although Ortiz’s case is about to be forwarded to Denver Manager of Safety Butch Montoya for his decision – four months after Ortiz’s guilty  plea.

Such revelations caused at least one city official to react with disgust. “These guys are pleading to crimes and they are never disciplined? This erodes the whole system,” said Councilman Ed Thomas, a longtime friend of Ruybal and her police-officer husband. “I definitely think the loss of their job should be a  consideration or at least a part of the equation.”

All three deputies were union leaders. Ortiz was treasurer of the Denver Sheriff’s Union, Ruybal was its president and Sanchez as president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27. Ortiz and Ruybal were displaced by the union membership because they stole thousands of dollars from the union. Sanchez was tossed from the FOP for illegally using its credit cards for  expenses such as strip clubs in Las Vegas.

All three avoided felony prosecution in return for  plea-bargained guilty pleas to misdemeanors. Felony prosecution and conviction would have ended their careers.

Ortiz supervises a portion of the Denver County Jail. His guilty plea in Apr. 2000 for misdemeanor theft came after a deal  was made with prosecutors before charges were filed. Although Ortiz was forced to repay more than $4,700 he had skimmed from union bank deposits and union checks he wrote to himself while treasurer, he admitted to stealing no more than $500. During the union’s investigation, Ortiz reportedly attempted to obstruct auditors from reviewing the union’s records.

Ruybal, who works in the jail, admitted to taking about $2,500 of the union’s money with  Ortiz’s help in 1997. She resigned as president in Sept. 1998  and pled guilty in June 1999 to misdemeanor theft. Her restitution amount was $300.

Ex-FOP president Sanchez was accused of skimming profits from the union’s weekly bingo games in 1997-98. Although never charged in that scandal, Sanchez opted in May 1999 to plead guilty to the misdemeanor of illegally using a union credit card. However, according to court records Sanchez was not ordered to pay  restitution, court costs or a fine. There was no sentence,  although FOP officials said Sanchez repaid the union about $2,000. Sanchez helps transport prisoners between the jail and courtrooms. [Denver Post 7/21/00]