Sheriff Charged On 39 Counts In 12-Year Forgery Racket
A Fairfield County, Connecticut Sheriff was arrested and charged Monday with 18 counts of second-degree forgery and 21 counts of criminal impersonation after a two year investigation pinned him as the master-mind behind a vehicle towing scheme that robbed taxpayers of unknown thousands.
Former Sheriff and State Marshal Charles Valentino, who was hired by towing companies picked by the city’s Finance Department, held auctions for cars of people behind on their taxes which no one attended. He then “purchased” the cars himself and resold them and kept the money, a state police arrest warrant affidavit said.
In one example of the scam, officials say, a 2001 Mercedes sedan was towed by Valentino because the owner was behind in taxes by $537.76. On June 14, 2013 he sold it for $3,000. “No proceeds from the sale of the Mercedes was ever credited towards [the owner’s] tax bill,” the affidavit states.
Valentino, who once boasted he was making $1 million a year, was in charge of court security and all the paper-serving sheriffs in Fairfield County until 2000, when his position was eliminated statewide by Gov. John Rowland.
The former holders of the position were renamed marshals and put under the auspices of the state Department of Administrative Services. Valentino served as head of the new state marshal’s association and with his political connections, became the chairman of Bridgeport’s Republican Party and sat on the city’s planning and zoning board and charter revision commission.
Valentino also continued to take the major paper-serving accounts for himself and handled the majority of evictions in the city until 2013, when he was caught perjuring himself when testifying about serving papers on the Secretary of the State’s office in a case involving a former Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools.
Valentino resigned as a state marshal on May 23, 2013 but Sheriff David Goodman, who had previously worked with the Sheriff revealed in 2014 that Valentino was still claiming to be a state marshal and doing evictions.
State police said that in June 2014, that the owner of Connecticut Mustang, told the FBI that Valentino had conducted an auction for 18 vehicles that were tax tows for the city of Bridgeport while acting as a state marshal and notarizing forms in the name of his mother, who died in 2010.
State police claim Valentino admitted to them that he had been conducting the auctions for 12 years and that “no one has ever purchased a car at any auction [he] conducted.”
During his tenure, Valentino was the first in Connecticut to implement the so-called Bootfinder program – special license-plate scanners that find cars owned by people behind on their taxes. The cars are then booted and if the owner doesn’t pay after 24 hours, the car is towed.
In 2005, Valentino was hired by Mayor Fabrizi to hunt down people that owned taxes and tow their cars unless they paid. He received 10 percent of all taxes he collected.
“I want the city to prosper, and the only way to do it is to collect taxes,” Valentino said at the time. “We will be working seven days a week. But we are not pinpointing anyone special.”
Valentino, who is known as “Mr. East Main Street,” for the many homes he owns near Beardsley Park, found himself standing handcuffed in Superior Court Monday under uneasy circumstances when Judge Robin Pavia set his bond at $750,000.
The case was continued until June 30. The total amount of money made by Valentino by his alleged criminal activities is unknown.