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Carona to surrender, begin 5 1/2-year prison term

January 21, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona has agreed to surrender to authorities next week and begin serving a 5 1/2-year prison term for witness tampering.

Carona, who has been free on bail since his 2009 conviction, will serve his term at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Littleton, Colo. He has the option of surrendering at the prison by Tuesday or being transported to the lockup by U.S. marshals.

During a two-month trial in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, prosecutors said Carona accepted secret cash payments, had numerous illicit sexual affairs and provided badges and concealed weapons licenses to campaign contributors.

Carona's wife, Deborah, and former mistress, Debra Hoffman, had faced related charges for benefiting from his schemes, but the charges were dropped after his acquittal on charges of bribe-taking, mail fraud and conspiracy.

Carona was found guilty in January 2009 on a single count of witness tampering related to a clandestinely recorded conversation with then-Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in July 2009 to let Carona, 55, postpone the start of his sentence, deeming him neither a flight risk nor a threat to public safety.

Carona, who presided over California's second-largest sheriff's department, was forced out of office in 2008 but collected about $215,000 in retirement benefits in 2009, Orange County public records show.


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-- Steve Marble