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pense report and reimbursed; no budget was filed in each commissioners’ court as required by state law; and Upchurch’s office did not maintain an inventory of seized assets. The suit does not specify the amount of damages sought. Upchurch’s attorney, John W. Cliff, has stated that he expected his client to collect an amount “in the six-figure range” should the suit be successful, according to the Odessa American. Upchurch’s bookkeeping practices as district attorney have also come under the scrutiny of a grand jury. “The purpose of that investigation is to look into possible improprieties that may have occurred during the term of the former district attorney,” said Assistant Attorney General Shane Phelps. “Part of the investigation deals with the disposition of forfeited funds by the former district attorney.” Phelps would not elaborate on the nature of the inquiry except to say it was “ongoing.” The Attorney General’s office is conducting the investigation because the current 143rd District Attorney, David Zavoda, served under Upchurch and recused himself to avoid a conflict of interest. At one point in the investigation, the grand jury requested that Zavoda provide the names of paid confidential informants used in reverse sting operations. When Zavoda refused, he was held in contempt of court and booked into jail for several hours. The contempt order was later lifted when Zavoda agreed to turn over the list of names. Forfeiting Accountability Upchurch’s association with the Midland sheriff’s department did not began when he was hired on as legal counsel. During his tenure as D.A., Upchurch’s office was involved in a number of lucrative sting operations with Painter’s deputies. Between October, 1989, when the forfeiture law went into effect, and September, 1990, when Upchurch stepped down, well over $400,000 in seized funds resulting from these joint operations were exchanged between the two offices, according to records on file with the Midland County Auditor’s Office. The vast majority of that money went to the Midland sheriffs from Upchurch’s office. On Oct. 4, 1989, for example, Upchurch’s office deposited $69,355.51 in the Midland County Sheriff’s Narcotics Fund, representing a one-third cut of an earlier seizure. On Feb. 14, 1990, Painter’s office received $73,975.80 from the 143rd D.A.’s office as its share in a separate seizure operation. During this period, the Midland sheriffs made only one payment from its forfeiture fund to the 143rd D.A.’s office. That check, dated Nov. 28, 1989, was made out to Hal Upchurch in the amount of $7,500, according to Midland County Auditor’s records. The receipt for the check does not indicate the purpose of the payment. Upchurch said the money came from .a reverse sting conducted in Norman, Okla., in conjunction with the Midland County Sheriff’s Department. The largest transaction by far during this period occurred on April 10, 1990, when two separate deposits totaling $267,252.71 were made in the Midland sheriff’s forfeiture fund by Upchurch’s office. The following day, a check for $88,000, slightly less than one-third of the previous day’s deposit, was written on the Midland sheriff’s forfeiture account made payable to “Gary Painter, Sheriff.” A receipt for the check indicates the money was for the purpose of “Evidence & Obtainment,” funds used as “flash money” in sting operations and to pay informants. Cheeks for Evidence and Obtainment, or “E&O,” money are frequentlY made out to the sheriff or one of his senior deputies then converted . to cash for use in operations or to pay tipsters. To protect their identity, informants are paid not only in cash, but also by a code name or number known only to the sheriff’s department. Before receiving the money, the informant must sign his or her code name or CURT W1LCOTT Sheriff Gary Painter number in view of a sheriff’s department witness. Seltzer fears that the stealth surrounding the dispersal of these funds creates the potential for abuse. “I don’t know who they [the people receiving E&O funds] are,” said Seltzer. The only ones who do know are Painter and his deputies, and they, at least for the moment, aren’t telling. Far Afield After Upchurch left office, the Midland sheriff’s department’s relationship with the 143rd D.A.’s office continued. Between the time Zavoda took over as D.A. and September of this year, there have been four transactions of forfeiture funds between the two offices totaling nearly $80,000. One of these is especially revealing. On June 5, 1991, $22,000 was paid out of the sheriffs office’s forfeiture fund to the 143rd D.A.’s office as their cut of the seized assets “resulting from a reverse undercover operation out of New Albany, Indiana,” according to a May 28 letter from Zavoda to Painter. The Indiana bust came about as the result of information developed in a sting conducted by the Midland sheriff’s department last fall. In that operation, a group of people were arrested in Midland attempting to purchase several hundred pounds of marijuana. The sting netted $350,000 in cash and produced a series of clues leading to Indiana. Rather than notifying federal authorities with the information, however, on October 5, 1990, the Midland deputies called the IndiEnforcement Association publication Idea at Work. Bite’cl’on the tip from the Midland deputies, ISP investigators set up the sting in New Albany. “Four investigators from Texas arrived in Ihdianapolis on October 6 and 7 and helped set up the operation,” according to Idea at Work. “On Sunday night, October 7, approximately 400 pounds of marijuana were delivered to Steve Allen on some rural property that Allen was purchasing in New Albany.” When the pot was delivered, Allen was arrested. With the aid of a federal search warrant, $160,000 in cash was eventually seized. “Two days after the Indiana raid, authorities with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigatidns Unit in Phoenix, Ariz., raided a local residence based on information resulting from the arrests in Texas and Indiana,” according to Idea at Work. “After entering several safes on the property, [Maricopa] sheriff’s investigators seized just under $100,000 in cash.” The article ends by saying, “Thanks go to the officers in Midland, Texas, who were willing to pursue the investigation well beyond their state borders in an effort THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13