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Universe-shattering investigation revealed in court testimony Friday

It was somewhat of an anticlimax when Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan revealed in federal court Friday details of the “universe shattering” investigation Mike Zullo hinted about a year and a half ago. We already knew much of the story. Let’s view the facts chronologically.

Mike Zullo was the one who exposed the universe-shattering investigation in November, 2013. Carl Gallups tweeted:

Zullo spoke to the Surprise Arizona Tea Party Patriots about that time. Sharon Rondeau interviewed an attendee:

Zullo “said that the investigation that they started ‘turned very dark…’

We can place a proximate time on the start of the investigation from a confidential informant inside the Sheriff’s Office. Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times newspaper wrote (in June 2014) that he had discovered:

My sources — one of whom is a former detective with the MCSO’s Special Investigations Division and is well-acquainted with SID and those in it — say Anglin and Mackiewicz were involved in an odd investigation dating back to October 2013.

Zullo, Anglin and Mackiewicz were the team working on the universe shattering investigation of some really deep, dark stuff. Zullo himself confirmed this the following February, 2014, that two MSCO deputies were involved in the secret investigation with Zullo. Zullo said:

You’re correct, Carl. I don’t know how this is all gonna play out. I know that the criminal investigation that we’re working on now, Sheriff Arpaio has dedicated resources in two full-time Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detectives. These are seasoned pros that are working this. These are the guys that go hunt down the really bad guys.

Notice that Zullo said “we” on the Carl Gallups radio show, and for that story I refer readers to Mitch Martinson’s February 10, 2014, article at Arizona’s Politics, “BREAKING: MCSO Confirms Sheriff Arpaio Now Has 2 FT Detectives Working On Investigation Related To President Obama Birth Certificate Investigation.” Zullo had made the claim of the two deputies, and Martinson got confirmation from the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office, who had referred Martinson to Zullo for more information:

We have two Sheriff’s detectives assigned to look into other issues surrounding the birth certificate, however they are not investigating the birth certificate issue itself.

But then the Sheriffs Office walked back that confirmation, correcting it to say:

MCSO Lt. Brandon Jones states that he “was misinformed” when he had confirmed the information earlier.  He now states that “The detectives are not working on anything regarding the birth certificate. Not even surrounding. Mr. Zullo was incorrect, they are working on other sensitive cases not even related.”

I glean two facts from this series of statements: 1) Two deputies were working on a sensitive investigation with Mike Zullo was involved and 2) it had nothing to do with Obama’s identity documents.

Now, to the investigation.

Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times uncovered much of the story in June of 2014. He disclosed that a notorious scammer, Dennis Montgomery, was the confidential informant driving the investigation. Montgomery bilked the Pentagon out of millions with claims that he had computer software that could determine the geographic coordinates of terrorist attacks using bar codes he claimed to find in noise from Al Jazeera TV broadcasts.

Starting around the time of that disclosure, we heard not a single word more from Zullo about the universe-shattering information and the deep dark investigation. The scam had been exposed.

Now for what was disclosed in court:

Deputy Sheridan, himself a subject of the contempt hearing, confirmed what Sheriff Arpaio said Thursday about the Seattle scammer-sourced investigation, but added (as reported by Lemons at the Phoenix New Times):

The chief deputy initially told the court, under questioning by defendants’ attorney Michelle Iafrate, that Montgomery had info about “computer tampering crimes” and purported to have evidence that the CIA had “hacked into 50,000 bank accounts in Maricopa County, and had the names and dollar amounts.”


Montgomery told them he had data left over from his time doing work for the government, which the pseudo-guru promised he could “mine” with “super computers.”

So there you have it (and read the Lemons article for more detail). Scammer Montgomery claimed that he had data that, with the help of super computers,” could dig out secret information tying the CIA, the Justice Department and the federal courts in a grand criminal conspiracy. This was to be the universe-shattering story that Zullo couldn’t keep in his pants.

What happened to the investigation? Sheridan tells us the rest of the story:

But Montgomery ultimately gave them nothing usable.

“We finally realized he was stringing us along,” said Sheridan.

Zullo spent time, along with MCSO deputies in Seattle in a condo they rented for Montgomery. It has been estimated that between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in public funds were wasted for Montgomery, the deputies, Zullo, the condo and computer equipment. It was all a con job, but Sheriff Joe and Mike Zullo fell for it.

The great universe-shattering investigation was just a scam.

Further reading:

PS: I had previously thought that Montgomery had offered some birther tidbit to entice Zullo alongside his attempt to find dirt on Eric Holder for Arpaio. There is no justification for this speculation. The investigation as disclosed by Sheridan fits what Zullo said and did. It was just me and the birthers who jumped to the conclusion that Zullo said something that he really didn’t say.

Posse Gate

I’ve focused on financial questions about the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse. They are a private non-profit,  tax-exempt corporation, and their finances remain shrouded in mystery with no reporting to the Sheriff’s Office, the State of Arizona or the IRS.

We’ve learned that there are 3,000 members of  Sheriff Joe’s various posses. Exactly what that association is remains murky, and it appears that they are either independent or closely associated depending on whatever is convenient in a particular situation. When it comes to emphasizing the authority of the Cold Case Posse, they are hand-in-glove with Sheriff Arpaio, but when it comes to financial oversight, they are totally independent.

I’m sure some of the MCSO posses do great work in search and rescue, and are a credit to their community. On the other hand, the financial shenanigans and lack of transparency I’ve found with the Cold Case Posse are not unique, nor are they new. For example:

Undie-Gate (1996-1998)

imageYou may have heard that Arpaio made inmates wear pink underwear, but did you know that his posses sold souvenir versions, the proceeds from which were hidden from the public? A Superior Court Judge said that because they were independent, Arizona’s open records law did not apply to them and they didn’t have to explain where the money went. Read the story at the Phoenix New Times:

Banned ‘Birther’ Breaks the BR Censorship Barrier

The Cold Case Posse’s “Universe Shattering” Evidence

Opinion: By Brian Reilly To: Kevin Davidson, Dr. Conspiracy

Once again, America is being told by Birther news outlets that new, universe shattering evidence about the Obama investigation will be released by Commander Mike Zullo and his non-profit, all volunteer, Cold Case Posse in March, or possibly April or possibly May or, possibly never, depending on who the Birther spokesperson is for the day. Even if new evidence were released this month, the Cold Case Posse has cried wolf so many times, who really is going to listen, except hardcore, agenda driven Birthers?

But wait a minute…..Brian Reilly…..isn’t he a Birther? Why is he writing to Dr. Conspiracy??? I’m glad that you asked. I’ve been banned at many Birther websites, including Birther Report. Many Birther sites put my comments into an endless, black cavern of moderation with my comments never seeing the light of day or the courtesy of a reply or a posting. My comments don’t fit the Birther narrative. On one particularly nefarious Birther website I’ve read threats and defamatory statements directed toward me for simply speaking my opinion. Do these tactics sound familiar? I came to Dr. Conspiracy’s website because, I had no other choice. I believed that he would give me the freedom to write and publish my thoughts. I was right. I am grateful for Dr. Conspiracy’s courtesy.

Yes, Dr. Conspiracy has me listed on his Birthers A-Z list, but I have never considered myself a Birther. I simply had questions about President Obama’s birth certificate, based on the PDF I saw posted on April 27, 2011 on the White House website. Many wanted answers as did I. But no, I don’t consider myself a Birther. Continue Reading →

Forensic accounting of the Cold Case Posse

About a month ago, I alluded to an investigation into the Cold Case Posse and said that some results could be expected in a month. I now have the expected information as promised.

In March of 2007, Mike Zullo as “Commander” of the Cold Case Posse applied to the IRS for exempt status. The IRS preliminary determination of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse, Inc. states that it is not required to file Form 990 (financial reports), that it is a § 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, and that it is a public charity under § 509(a)(2).

The IRS determination seems reasonable based on what Zullo told the IRS, and what Zullo told the IRS seems reasonable based on the original intent stated at the Posse’s creation in 2007.

The question that I raise now is whether the IRS determination is still appropriate. In order to obtain exemption from filing public financial reports on Form 990, the CCP had to submit a narrative describing itself. It hypothetically describes itself as “organized as a separate entity of the governmental unit that created it.”1 In that narrative, very little is said about financing, only:

The individual posse members, just like volunteer fire fighters, donate their time and efforts to solve these [cold] cases without expecting or receiving compensation.


Lastly, it should be noted that members of the applicant are all individually responsible for the costs necessary to pay for any and all equipment and uniforms that they may need to fulfill their duties to the sheriff’s department and any necessary equipment needed for their safety.

imageAs I read this, the Cold Case Posse represented to the IRS that it wouldn’t have any expenses. That reading is confirmed by explicit expense estimates on their Form 1023 Application for Exemption for tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009: $0. They also specifically state that no one with the Posse would receive compensation. That immediately raises a question for me because for each of those tax years, the CCP estimated revenue of $6,500 from “membership fees.” Why did they estimate $19,500 in revenue for the three years, but no expenses? What were they going to do with that money? If the IRS wondered the same thing, they approved the Application anyway.2

Part of classifying an organization involves its sources of funding. In 2007 all the funding was projected as coming from membership fees. Is that still true today? We simply do not know how much of their revenue today comes from membership fees and how much from the Sheriff’s Office (such as county cars, gas cards and deputy trips to Hawaii) and how much from non-member donations.

In 2007 no expenses were projected. Today there are least hints of expenses. Republic Media outlet reported a year and a half ago (May 22, 2012):

The cold-case posse has spent about $40,000 on the investigation so far, according to the Sheriff’s Office.3

That might include the cost of sending a deputy with Mike Zullo to Hawaii, but not Zullo’s several lobbying trips this past year nor his three-week adventure “out west” this past month. It wouldn’t have included fees paid to Reed Hayes. The number, whatever it is, must be significantly larger today.

Things have materially changed since the Cold Case Posse’s charge to assist the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office on unsolved homicides with volunteers who pay their own way. Now it’s an expensive donation-driven investigation of President Obama’s identity documents, which is neither a homicide, nor any case in Maricopa County.

I wonder if the IRS would classify today’s Cold Case Posse the same way it did in 2007? I hope not.

Related article:

1Some other Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posses do file IRS Form 990.

I use the word “hypothetically” because of the odd language in the narrative:

Chapter 501 (C)(3) states that an organization may request an exemption from federal income tax if it is organized as a separate entity of the governmental unit that created it.

The statement is true, but it says nothing about the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse, Inc., although the careless reader might get that impression. The Cold Case Posse was chartered by the Sheriff’s Office, but they didn’t create the corporation that was seeking tax exemption. It was created by private citizens, and no one in their official capacity with the Sheriff’s Office signed the Articles of Incorporation.

2There are a few other curious things on the CCP Form 1023 Application. For example, Box XI (2) should have been checked, but it wasn’t.

3The Sheriff’s Office wrote to me that they had no financial records on the Cold Case Posse, who operate independently. That seems at odds with the Office being able to provide expense information to the Arizona Republic.

Cold Case Posse referred to IRS for failure to file Form 990

Most of the detail has already been presented in my article, “Is the Cold Case Posse a Charity?” The Maricopa County Sheriffs Cold Case Posse, Inc. (MCSOCCP) is designated a 501(c)(3) exempt organization (a charity that doesn’t pay taxes and who can accept tax-deductible contributions). Generally such organizations are required to file reports of their expenditures with the IRS on Form 990.

There is a reporting exemption for organizations that are “affiliates of governmental units” under the presumption that the governmental unit keeps tabs on their financial activities, and GuideStar (a source of information on non-profits) says that the MCSOCCP claims such an exemption; however, the MCSOCCP does not qualify for the exemption based on IRS criteria unless the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office provides financial management or financial oversight of the Posse. The missing piece of evidence of illegal activity (failure to file Form 990) that I alluded to in a comment yesterday is a letter from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office indicating that there is no financial management or oversight by the Sheriff’s Office of its Cold Case Posse. Here’s the letter:

I filed a referral with the IRS this morning. By law, the IRS cannot provide any status information about such referrals beyond acknowledgment of receipt. The Cold Case Posse is also “not in good standing” with the State of Arizona for failure to file a report due last June (not a financial report).

The problem here, and the reason that I filed the referral, is that the Cold Case Posse, while claiming a government tax exemption, does not report its expenditures as required by law: It doesn’t report them to the Sheriff’s Office, it doesn’t report them to the Arizona Secretary of State, and it doesn’t report them to the IRS.


I looked on an additional web site,, and the way I interpret that information, it appears that the IRS considers the Cold Case Posse an instrumentality of a state or political subdivision. (The material I presented to the IRS would demonstrate that this classification is not applicable to the Cold Case Posse.)

When applying to the IRS, one of the questions on the application for exemption form (Form 1023) is: Are you affiliated with a governmental unit? Besides an indication that an explanation should be provided for a “Yes” answer, there aren’t any specific questions for determining whether or not the applicant qualifies as a governmental unit. If the MCSOCCP has indeed a determination from the IRS that it is a governmental unit, and the IRS did its job correctly, and I correctly understand the criteria, one would conclude that the MCSOCCP misrepresented itself to the IRS or that it operates in a materially different way from when it was chartered.

By law an exempt organization is required to provide a copy of Form 1023 upon request and I requested this from the Cold Case Posse in a letter sent by certified mail, but of course the Cold Case Posse doesn’t claim its certified mail.