Former Enron Task Force prosecutor John C. Hueston is up to his old tricks again. However, this time, instead of railroading energy tycoons Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay, he’s set his sights on ordinary citizens at the Tax Assessor’s Office in San Bernardino, California.
This saga begins with allegations that Bill Postmus was abusing drugs and committing other crimes while in office. The county was authorized to hire outside lawyers to investigate the allegations and determine if there was enough evidence to remove Postmus from office.
Enter John C. Hueston. Hueston immediately snapped on his Enron Task Force underoos and got to work. In February, Mr. Hueston contacted many of the county employees at the office, including the former spokesman for Bill Postmus, Ted Leher. Mr. Leher was one of the majority who told Hueston that there was no malfeasance in the Tax Assessor’s office.
On Wednesday, May 13, 2009, Mr. Hueston issued a 33-page report, concluding the tax assessor’s office was a hive of fraud. He alleged that the office had defrauded taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars while operating a political machine on county time. According to the report, some staffers rarely showed up for work, were paid higher-than-average salaries, engaged in questionable hiring practices and worked on political campaigns for Republican candidates.
Postmus denied any wrongdoing and called the report a “taxpayer-funded hit piece.”
After reading the report, Mr. Leher spoke to the media and said that the report erroneously mischaracterized the events and personalities at the tax office. On that same Wednesday, Mr. Leher received a voicemail from John C. Hueston. The former prosecutor informed Leher it was “in your best interest” to call him back to “discuss your status” as it relates to the report. A dutiful citizen, Mr. Leher called Mr. Hueston back, and was told that his unsworn statements (i.e., statements collected for the report) were very different from what he told the media. And – “if this continues, you may be added to the lawsuit.” After threatening Mr. Leher, Hueston then ordered him to issue a press release retracting his statements to the media.
Mr. Leher refused. Mr. Leher instead did the more difficult thing and issued a press release stating that Mr. Hueston has threatened him with being added to the lawsuit unless he stops speaking out about the findings in the 33-page report. Mr. Hueston denies threatening Mr. Leher in any way and states that Mr. Leher’s statements that went into the report were true. “It was impressive in how confessional it was,” Hueston said.
“It was very intimidating to receive a phone call from a former federal prosecutor who told me that I needed to retract a public statement, otherwise he felt it was contradictory to what I told him,” Lehrer said.
Hueston was sending him a message that he could face a lawsuit, Lehrer said.
Hueston said he followed up with Lehrer only to find out if he was telling the truth now or during their interview.
Unfortunately for Mr. Hueston, this is the same pattern he used with the unindicted co-conspirators at Enron. He would call them (not their attorneys, as is proper) and tell them they were going to be indicted unless they stopped talking to the defense. This is documented. This is a fact.
Mr. Hueston seems intent on amassing as many big scandal-busting points as he possibly can, even if the scandals are completely fabricated by himself.
I will be following this case very closely with regular updates. Wouldn’t it be great to see this megalomaniac former prosecutor brought to justice by the ordinary citizens of a tax assessor’s office? I am cheering for the good guys.