A ruling on whether there is enough evidence to hold a former county inspector to answer to charges of accepting bribes is expected Friday after Thursday’s preliminary hearing ran long.
At issue is the fate of 48-year-old Fortuna resident Patrick McTigue, who is charged with six felony counts of an official soliciting or accepting bribes, three felony counts of grand theft and one count of dissuading a witness after he was arrested in 2018 in connection with complaints he stole money from Southern Humboldt County.residents
Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada called eight witnesses to the stand including county planning and building director John Ford, who joined the department in 2016 when McTigue was already working as a building inspector.
Alleged victims of McTigue also took the stand. Some claimed to be swindled out of large sums of money, others level allegations of McTigue accepting cannabis products with the promise of payments that were never received.
“He said he had a marijuana delivery company in Sacramento,” said Richard Amaral, who first came into contact with McTigue when he inspected a home construction project in 2016. “He wanted me to invest in the business and he initially asked me for $100,000. He said I would have a quarter of the business.”
Amaral said he gave McTigue $50,000 in cash and, at the time, Amaral’s wife had both men sign a simple contract she had scribbled onto a piece of note paper. That piece of paper would surface throughout the testimony from Richard Amaral and his wife, Lacey Amaral, particularly after they had trouble contacting McTigue after they turned over the money in May 2017.
The Amarals testified McTigue always had an excuse for not being able to pay them back or in any way provide revenue from the investment into his supposed business.
Lacey Amaral said when she did her own research on the business she became alarmed the things McTigue told them didn’t match her search results.
“I was present for multiple phone calls and text messages,” Lacey Amaral said. “There were a lot (of text messages) — between 20 and 50.”
Under cross-examination from McTigue’s defense lawyer, Neal Sanders, the couple answered questions about the nature of the business relationship they had with McTigue and whether the money was a loan.
At one point, Lacey Amaral responded, “It would have been for 25 percent of the business; this was never a loan.”
One of the key reasons several of the alleged victims got involved with McTigue, according to their testimony, was because he promised he could expedite cannabis permits through his position with the building department. Witness Lloyd Julien said McTigue came to a property of his off state Route 36 in January 2018 where McTigue asked Julien’s partner, Manny Meras, for $2,000 to help get the permits through the system.
“This took place on a Saturday,” Julien said, adding that shortly after introductions, McTigue pulled out a handgun and told the pair, “I guess I don’t need this” and put the weapon in his pickup truck.
At the time, McTigue was on sick leave from the county and he told Julien he would walk him through the steps of acquiring the proper permits. Julien said he refused to give McTigue money but his partner gave him $2,000. Then McTigue cut off contact.
“He wouldn’t answer our calls,” Julien testified.
Hydesville resident Jesse Genaro, a clothing store owner and cannabis business owner in Fortuna, said he paid McTigue $50,000 under the impression McTigue would assist him getting his products to market and offered an investment in his Sacramento delivery business, called “Simply Humboldt.”
In addition to the cannabis business angle, Genaro testified McTigue promised to save him some $80,000 in construction costs for greenhouses and water tanks at his cannabis grow site, but he never came through.
When McTigue failed to follow through, Genaro said he spoke with others who had dealt with him and then went to the county planning department. Ultimately that led to an interview with investigators from the sheriff’s office.
McTigue remains out of custody.
The preliminary hearing will resume Friday morning at 9:15 a.m. in courtroom 1.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.