The rich Wall Street-types approached Arizona lobbyist Mike Williams out of the blue.
Claiming to be executives from a New York firm known as Longford Solutions, they expressed interest in getting into Arizona’s real estate market by buying up property from cash-strapped government entities.
But they were FBI agents, and Longford Solutions, it turns out, was a front company.
Working from court documents, public information requests, campaign finance records and interviews with individuals familiar with the case, TPM has put together a picture of a federal investigation into small town corruption that has already seen the arrest of an Arizona politician, with suggestions of more to come.Federal prosecutors allege that Rep. Ben Arredondo — a Tempe city council member who would go on to be elected to the statehouse — began a relationship with the FBI’s fake company in February 2009. His good friend Williams would register to lobby on behalf of Longford Solutions a few weeks later.
Three years later, the 63-year-old Republican-turned-Democrat has been charged in a corruption case, accused of accepting tickets to sporting and charity events in exchange for advancing Longford Solution’s agenda.
Williams, meanwhile, has been going about his business amid a cloud of suspicion in Arizona’s lobbying community that he is working with the FBI against his former political allies.
Reached by TPM a few weeks ago, Williams said he stopped representing Longford Solutions in November 2009, though filings indicate the relationship did not formally end until June 2010. Williams declined to provide any details about the company or his interactions with its representatives, saying he normally referred media requests back to the company itself.
He said he didn’t have contact information for Longford Solutions readily available and claimed he knew nothing about Longford Solutions being part of an FBI sting.
“I don’t know anything about that, I’m sorry I can’t help you out,” Williams said before hanging up. Williams has not responded to multiple subsequent phone calls and emails.
FBI Ruse Included Website, Campaign Donations
The FBI put in a significant amount of work to make Longford Solutions look real. It was formed as a limited liability company (LLC) and incorporated in Delaware on May 6, 2008 using BizFilings.com, a search of records shows. Longford Solutions had an address in New York City and a simple website at LongfordSolutions.com (at right).
Outside a now-defunct website, Longford has very little web presence. A representative named as John Williams apparently attended the Arizona Solar Summit in 2011, though many of the names attached to Longford are thought to be aliases.
The company does, however, show up on Arredondo’s publicly available campaign finance records. William Monahan gave $410 to Arredondo’s statewide campaign on May 17, 2010, as did an Anne Monahan of Trenton. Three men purportedly working for Longford Solutions — William Carino, Keith Ryan and Patrick Daley — also gave Arredondo $410 each on the same day, as did their wives, Dee Carino, Lynn Ryan and Susan Daley. TPM could not locate records of any of these people actually existing. The phone number previously listed with Longford Solutions has been disconnected.
Those donations, totaling $3,280, came about a month after an April 15, 2010 meeting in which Arredondo allegedly discussed his campaign for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives and told representatives of the fake FBI company they would have everything they needed once he was in the legislature.
An Introduction At IHOP
Arredondo allegedly had a relationship with Longford Solutions for over a year before he introduced the undercover agents to his colleagues on Tempe’s city council. At the time, Arredondo was gearing up for his statehouse race and his niece Robin Arredondo-Savage had been elected to a seat on the council.
Calendar entries obtained by TPM through a public records request reveal that two current members of the city council met with Arredondo and a man named Bill Monahan at an IHOP about a mile away from city hall on June 17, 2010. The FBI affidavit in Arredondo’s case alleges that the Arredondo “indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to introduce councilmembers to a representative of Company A so that Company A would continue to have personal access to the City Council after Arredondo’s departure.”
Here’s how the meeting appeared on Woods’ and Navarro’s calendars:
Arredondo is the only person charged so far in the federal sting. The city of Tempe said it has no records of any of the councilmembers communicating with Longford Solutions before or after that meeting. And other than Arredondo, none appear to have accepted campaign donations from Longford Solutions. Still, prosecutors said in court filings last week that an investigation is still ongoing.
Williams Suspected Of Involvement In Another Federal Case
U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Martone last week ruled that federal prosecutors could keep information about Arredondo’s case from going public. The government argued it might impede ongoing investigations or “impair the privacy rights of third parties whose conduct is or was at one time under investigation.”
That evidence includes more than 10,000 pages of documents and about 50 hours of audio and video recordings. Much of it, federal prosecutors claimed, has little or no connection to the Arredondo case but they provided it out of “an abundance of caution.”
Williams political connections in the state — and the FBI’s admission that there are ongoing investigations connected to the Arredondo case — have left Arizona’s political class wondering what shoe will drop next.
A former staffer to Sen. John McCain, Williams has been working as a lobbyist for about 20 years. His current list of clients includes the Arizona Police Association, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the United States Fireworks Safety Council, the Arizona Collectors Association and TASER International.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to Williams said Longford Solutions executives told the lobbyist they were interested in building relationships with Arizona’s political elites, a fact supported by their future interactions with members of Tempe’s city council. None of the real estate projects they spoke of seemed to go anywhere.
The sources said they believed Williams was working with the feds, but weren’t sure what had made him flip. The sources said rumors he was working with the feds began circulating in Tempe political circles earlier this year.
A lawyer for former Arizona state representative Richard Miranda, a Democrat who was recently sentenced to over two years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and attempted tax evasion, said he suspects Williams also played a role in the case against his client.
“There is no evidence that he did start the investigation into these two members of the Arizona legislature, but if you’re smart enough and put the pieces together, that’s what I believe the case started from,” Jose A. Montano, a lawyer for Miranda, told TPM.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on their relationship with Williams.
Additional reporting by Nick Martin.