Nogales, Ariz. (KVOA) – A prominent Santa Cruz County businessman has been indicted by the federal government on several charges related to wire fraud and bribery as part of a major criminal plot involving a former county assessor. was done.
Constantine “Dino” Panousopoulos owns several properties and businesses in the real estate and agricultural industry.
According to the indictment filed on April 13, Prosecutors allege that Panusopoulos provided gifts and cash to former Santa Cruz County Assessor Felipe Fuentes in exchange for changes to the land classification and tax valuation of Panusopoulos’ property. The indictment also charges Nogales-based consultant Luis Manuel Flores.
Prosecutors allege Flores acted as an intermediary in helping Panusopoulos buy Fuentes for thousands of dollars in cash.
As a reward, Panusopoulos also gave Fuentes free use of his beachfront property in San Carlos, Sonora, and two ranch lots in Santa Cruz County, according to the indictment.
According to the indictment, the two men “defrauded the residents of Santa Cruz County and deprived them of the right to the bona fide services of Felipe Fuentes, elected county assessor.”
News 4 Tucson interviewed Panusopoulos’ attorney Grant Willie about the allegations. He said he was disappointed and surprised that the government chose to sue his client.
“We have responded to government investigations over the last year and are disappointed with the government’s decision to file charges,” he said.
Our lead investigative reporter, Corus Nylander, asked him how Panushopoulos was supportive.
“I won’t go into details, but for example they issued a subpoena and we have responded,” Willie said.
News 4 Tucson spoke with Herb Wisdom, a prominent Santa Cruz County business owner. He owns the iconic Wisdom’s Cafe in Tumacakori and is also a member of the Tubac Fire District Commission. He is also a former Nogales Police Chief.
Wisdom said she was surprised to hear of the indictment.
“He’s very active, very powerful. We have a track record of having a great impact on many people not only here, but also at the state level and the US level. So it will be very interesting to see what happens with this indictment,” he said.
Fuentes has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing this summer. Wisdom said he had been good friends with Fuentes for years but was shocked and saddened to see the lawsuit against him.
He hopes something good will come out of it.
“I hope this serves as a lesson for others in the county that if you do something wrong, you will get caught,” Wisdom explained.
The indictment also names three other people, who remain anonymous, who were allegedly involved in the grand scheme. One is another employee at the county assessor’s office, so the county superintendent we spoke with declined to comment on the situation, citing the potential for further criminal charges.
Panusopoulos is scheduled to appear in court on May 5. We will keep you updated with the latest information as the case develops.
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