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Carbon County sheriff under investigation for alleged misuse of county credit card

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 6:25 p.m. MDT

Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova is the subject of a criminal investigation. Cordova, who is not seeking reelection, is accused of using his county-issued credit card to purchase $2,200 in fuel for trips to move his belongings from Price to St. George, where he recently bought a home. The move was made using Cordova's county-issued pickup truck and a trailer that belongs to the county's search and rescue team, according to prosecutors.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

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PRICE — Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova is the subject of a criminal probe alleging that he used his county-issued credit card to help pay for his move from Price to St. George, where he recently bought a home.

Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate confirmed Thursday that Cordova is under investigation for spending about $2,100 on the credit card, apparently to purchase fuel for his county-owned pickup truck.

An investigator in Strate's office, working with police from other agencies, conducted surveillance on Cordova and documented his use of the county pickup and a sheriff's office search and rescue trailer to move his personal belongings to his St. George home, the prosecutor said.

Cordova, who was first sworn in as sheriff in 1999, said last year that he would not be seeking re-election. In December, he purchased the home in St. George. Shortly after, multiple sources say, he was frequently absent from his office.

"It's my understanding (under state law) that he just has to make sure the office is operating properly, he doesn't actually have to be here any number of days per month," Strate said. "He is coming and going to the office — I don't think a lot — but I think he comes in to the office a handful of days a month."

Responsibility for day-to-day operations of the sheriff's office has been delegated to Cordova's chief deputy, Tom Stefanoff.

"He told me he would still have a residence (in Price) and live here until his term was up," Stefanoff said Thursday. "I do speak with the sheriff regularly. We're making it happen. We have a great team, great people, and we're getting the job done."

Deputies were "shocked" to learn about the criminal investigation Thursday, according to Stefanoff. "They didn't know this was coming," he said. "This is pretty new still.

"Nobody's above the law, (not) even the sheriff," the chief deputy added. "He is being investigated. We'll let that play out and find out from that what has occurred."

A man who answered the door at Cordova's home in St. George Thursday told the Deseret News that no one there was interested in talking about the case. Cordova's attorney, Greg Law, also declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The final investigative report should be finished in the next week or so, according to Strate. After that, the case will be forwarded to either the Utah Attorney General's Office or a prosecutor's office in another county to review for possible charges.

"I anticipate we might have a series of felonies each time he used the card improperly," Strate said.

Should Cordova, a Democrat, be removed from office or resign, his replacement would be chosen by the Carbon County Democratic Party's central committee, according to party chairman Jason Llewelyn. The person who is chosen would serve the remainder of Cordova's term, which ends Dec. 31.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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