Ex-Calif. Bay Area Chief Indicted for "Sham Charities"

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A former Santa Clara County Sheriffs Lieutenant and ex-union president was indicted August 2 for trading on the union's name to raise funds for sham charities.

According to the indictment by a Santa Clara grand jury, Armand Tiano and 12 alleged co-conspirators engaged in grand theft, tax evasion and money laundering that involved at least $1.4 million. Among the false charities were two created after the 1998 slaying of Millbrae police officer David Chetcuti. Allegedly, Tiano and the others persuaded many people to write checks for the "Officer Chetcuti Fund" and the "Millbrae Officer Family Trust Fund." The widow, Gail Chetcuti, never received any of those funds.

In his heyday, Tiano oversaw the county jails, presided over the Santa Clara Deputy Sheriffs Assn; and twice campaigned for Sheriff. In 1993, Tiano incorporated his own fund-raising group, the Deputy Sheriiffs' Sports Assn, and contracted with two brothers, George and Matthew Kellner, who already owed the union $100,000 in charity fund-raising. The brothers then began paying off Tiano from the ostensible charity to take advantage of "his official position and contacts" acc. to the indictment.

For the next five years, Tiano and the Kellners raised funds by phone for various groups claiming police affiliation, even though Tiano, who retired in 1996, was the only police officer in these groups. California law requires any non-govt. organization with "police" in its name to have current or retired police comprising at least 80 percent of its membership.

In 1998, a local attorney contacted county prosecutors after his client agreed to make a $100 credit card donation to the "Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff's Office," then later found eight charges totaling $800 to a similarly named group using Tiano's home address. Tiano denied any wrong-doing and offered a list of food banks, shelters, churches and athletic teams that had benefited from his operations. But when the Santa Clara D.A. contacted 13 of the charities, only one said it had ever received any funds from Tiano's groups -- $1,000.

Tiano agreed to register his group with the state Attny General's Office of Charitable Trusts. After he failed to do so, prosecutors ordered him to cease his telemarketing operations in Feb. 2000. But three days later, Tiano formed the "Police and Sherriff's Athletic League and Community Fund" and persisted in raising money, acc. to the indictment.

In 2001, Tiano was convicted of molesting two teenage girls. After serving his sentence, Tiano failed to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to 16 months in San Quentin Prison, where he awaits trial for his charity scams. [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/2/02]