Assessor’s Worker Jailed; Bribe Alleged
District attorney’s investigators on Wednesday arrested an employee of the Ventura County assessor’s office after the woman allegedly took a bribe from a local airplane owner who was behind in a tax payment, authorities said.
Jacque Sue Martinez, 29, of Oxnard was booked into the Ventura County Jail shortly after being arrested Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff G. Bennett said Martinez collected more than $400 from the owner of the aircraft and later wiped the owner’s debt off county books.
The plane owner, whom Bennett declined to identify, helped investigators “catch the suspect in the act of accepting the money,” Bennett said.
Martinez was booked into jail at 4:30 p.m. on suspicion of bribery and grand theft, Bennett said.
She was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail, a jail spokesman said.
No formal charges have been filed. Bennett said investigators were still preparing the case for prosecutors to review for possible charges.
County Assessor Glenn Gray said he had not yet seen the investigation report, but intended to take swift action against Martinez if the charges are proven. “We can’t have that kind of behavior,” he said. “I don’t condone this kind of action. We have to have integrity.
“I’ve been here 32 years,” he added, “and I don’t recall anything of this type happening.”
Gray called a staff meeting Wednesday to inform his employees of the allegations against Martinez. He said Martinez had worked in the assessor’s office for nearly 10 years, but declined to comment on her work. One employee, who asked not to be identified, said most of Martinez’s colleagues expressed shock at the allegations because she was considered an exemplary worker.
Martinez is listed as an office assistant 4, a position just below supervisor that has a salary range as high as $27,035, Personnel Director Ron Komers said.
A statement issued by the district attorney’s office said she “occupied a position where she was responsible for identifying overdue taxes on boats and planes.”
Bennett said the prosecutor’s office was contacted by the owner of the plane last week. The man told investigators that Martinez had offered to wipe out his tax debt on the plane in exchange for a cash payment. Bennett said the debt was less than $1,000.
Bennett said authorities monitored a meeting between Martinez and the plane owner. She collected the agreed-upon payment, returned to work and doctored records to reflect that the owner’s tax liability had been satisfied, he said.
Investigators checked bank records to find that Martinez then deposited the payment in her personal bank accounts.
If charged with bribery and grand theft, Martinez could face a maximum of four years in state prison, authorities said.
Bennett said prosecutors believe the case to be an isolated incident. Still, he encouraged any taxpayer who might have been solicited for similar payments to contact the district attorney’s office.