Ariz. Renzi Associate Gets Probation for Embezzlement

February 3, 2011

A federal judge has sentenced an associate of former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi to three years’ probation for conspiracy and embezzlement convictions related to his role as the accountant at Renzi’s family insurance firm.

U.S. District Judge David Bury rejected a federal prosecutor’s request that he sentence Dwayne Lequire to more than three years in prison. Bury also cut the amount the government wanted Lequire, 52, of Sonoita, to pay in restitution from $475,400 to $26,500 and levied no fine, defense attorney Skip Donau said.

The case is tied to allegations that the former Arizona congressman looted his family insurance business to fund his campaigns and personal expenses.

A jury convicted Lequire of conspiracy and eight counts of embezzlement in July. Another Renzi associate, Andrew Beardall, was acquitted of conspiracy and two counts of insurance fraud. Beardall, of Rockville, Md., was the president and lawyer for Renzi’s Sierra Vista-based insurance company from late 2002 through 2003.

Lequire was accused of diverting customers’ insurance premiums from the firm to Renzi. Beardall was accused of helping cover up Renzi’s alleged siphoning of $400,000 from the family insurance company to run his congressional campaign.

Lequire did not profit from the scheme and his accounting was not in dispute, Donau said. He said even the FBI used his accounting it while it built the case.

“We thought the judge was very fair and recognized the uniqueness of this case,” Donau said. “We are pleased with the sentencing. We had hoped the jury would acquit him of all charges but they did not, although his co-defendant was acquitted of them all.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the sentence, handed down in Tucson.

Renzi faces charges in the insurance case and on public corruption charges tied to a land swap he is accused of trying to engineer to benefit himself and a business partner. He has pleaded not guilty.

Renzi is appealing rulings made by Bury denying a constitutional challenge to his 47-count indictment, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments later this month. That appeal has put the former three-term Republican lawmaker’s case on hold.

Last year, the judge blocked prosecutors from using wiretaps collected by federal investigators from being used at Renzi’s trial. Bury ruled that FBI agents and federal prosecutors “conducted an unreasonable wholesale interception of calls they knew to be attorney-client communications.”

The initial indictment against Renzi was unsealed in February 2008.

Renzi represented Arizona’s sprawling 1st Congressional District before declining to seek re-election in 2008.

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