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For week ended November 14, 1999 Posted 14 Nov 1999

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Mission Pals in trouble for Land deals (Supervisor Stapley insists he's done no wrong)

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Mission Pals in trouble for Land deals (Supervisor Stapley insists he's done no wrong)
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 8Nov99 D2
By Edythe Jensen and Mike McCloy: The Arizona Republic

A three-year investigation into the possible illegal land-splitting deal among two former missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has targeted Don Stapley, currently Maricopa County Supervisor, and Duke Coley and Wilford Cardon. The three have been longtime friends.

"Wilford Cardon introduced me to Duke Cowley years and years and years ago," Stapley said. "I was aware that they had a lot of holdings in real estate together. Wilford Cardon and Duke Cowley....were missionary companions, Mormon, I think, 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil."

Recent records released by the Attorney General's office show that Stapley and friends carved up 200 acres on the fringes of Maricopa County's Santan Regional Park. State law limits unregulated division of parcels into no more than five smaller lots. Last month The Arizona Republic filed a lawsuit against the Department of Real Estate.

Marlan Walker, Stapley's attorney said," I think they got Don in a bad situation because of old friendships." Records show that Stapley stood to make nearly $l00,00 profit on a $40,000 investment. It also showed that Cowley and Cardon played significant roles in buying and selling land deals under several partnerships and family names.

Last year Stapley traded l5 acres to Arizona Sun Holding Inc. which resulted in his obtaining a luxury home in Phoenix with a $250,000 mortgage. Susan Lagerman, Assisstant Attorney General, told him in an interview, "You did order eight surveys. You had releases on eight pieces that you did own."

The state investigation will determine whether he violated the law by "acting in concert" with Cowley, his daughter and others who divided up 200 acres along dirt roads in the foothills of the Santan Mountains.

"Honestly, I didn't know that they had purchased 200 acres," Stapley said. "I didn't know how much property there was. I didn't ask. That may sound unusual, but I just, honestly, wasn't interested." Stapley told investigators that Cowley might have been splitting up the land in cooperation with the Cardon family of Mesa although Cowley held no interest in the property.

"They have so many properties and so many businesses and so many real estate all comes out in the wash," Stapley said. "I don't know for a fact that they trade interest...but it's easy to do when you've got that many things going on."

Jacqueline Buck, an employee of Cowley's, indicated that she acted as an intermediaary to put buyers and sellers together, but evidence shows otherwise. Her name appears on dozens of real estate documents, and she has indicated she would be able to implicate her boss and his associates.

Stapley told investigators that he agreed to act as a "straw buyer" to purchase property. "Duke asked me to be a straw man on this." The company listed was the same address as Stapley's office. Two address were used for several individuals and entities. On at least one occasion, Stapley's Arroyo partnership used Cowley's business address.

Three years ago, the department of Real Estate offered a deal that would require Sapley to pay a fine and attend classes on illegal subdividing. He refused to settle. The statute of limitations has passed on prosecuting the land splits. The limit is five years and the Stapley deals began in 1995.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information