The Range

Judgment Day

Guilty! That's the verdict from a Maricopa County Superior Court jury in the 10-month trial of two one-time top execs with the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, a faith-based con job that lost roughly $300 million in investments from some 11,000 suckers.

Former BFA President William Crotts, 61, and general counsel Thomas Grabinski, 46, were found guilty of multiple counts of fraud and illegally conducting an enterprise. They each face a maximum of 46 years behind bars.

Five other defendants in the case have pleaded guilty since indictments were issued in 2001.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, whose office prosecuted the case, press-released: "These verdicts are a victory for thousands of victims who believed the promises made by the defendants. They had their faith shattered and faced the possible loss of all their retirement investments. This case makes it clear that no matter how rich or powerful or well-connected you are, if you defraud investors, you are going to be prosecuted and convicted."

Living the Vida Loca

Former Pima County prosecutor Lourdes Lopez, whose boyfriend, Bradley Schwartz, was recently convicted of plotting the murder of his former medical partner Dr. Brian David Stidham, was arrested on DUI charges after she ran head-on into another car on River Road near Campbell Avenue on Saturday, July 22.

Lopez, who left the Pima County Attorney's Office shortly before copping a plea in a federal prescription-drug abuse case, told police after Stidham's brutal murder that Schwartz had often talked about his desire to see Stidham dead. She subsequently lost her contract for indigent defense work for the county and remains under investigation by the State Bar of Arizona.

Also popped for drunk driving last week: actor/director Mel Gibson, who went into a tirade against Jews as he was being taken into custody. According to the entertainment Web site, Gibson asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy who arrested him if he was Jewish and said: "Fucking Jews. ... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." He also attempted to escape, called a female officer "sugar tits" and complained that "my life is fucked." That's for sure--even though we don't think the alcohol is to blame.

After the incident, Gibson released the obligatory apologetic statement: "I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Gibson entered rehab earlier this week, although it remained unclear whether it would include treatment for anti-Semitism.

Bombs Away

Elsewhere on the law-and-order beat: The Tucson Police Department put a bomb-squad robot up for sale on the city's surplus-property Web auction site. TPD officials say they're getting rid of the robot because they have two new ones.

The "fully functional robot," which requires a minimum bid of $1,125, "is in good operational condition. Cosmetically the robot is fair. It was painted 12 years ago and could use some touch-up."

Unfortunately for The Range, which has been looking for a fully functional robot for years, bidders are limited to law-enforcement agencies.

In the Money

Break out the scotch and light up a cigar--Arizona has had a very good year, indeed. The preliminary numbers from the month of June show that the state pulled in $9.26 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, which was $1.31 billion more than fiscal year 2005 and nearly $1.5 billion more than forecast in June 2005. Sales taxes were up by 16.7 percent; individual income taxes were up by 24.1 percent, and corporate income taxes were up by 24.6 percent.

The windfall means the state's rainy-day fund is now filled to the maximum $648.3 million.

Lawmakers could have used the surplus to expand highways in our rapidly growing state, but decided big tax cuts for the wealthiest Arizonans were a better way to go.

But lawmakers did set aside $307 million for highway construction. The bad news: Six out of every 10 dollars will be spent in Maricopa, while Pima County is expected to get 16 percent of the money, or $49 million, according to The Associated Press.

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