FARMINGTON — San Juan County sheriff candidate Daniel Goldberg was arrested in Florida in the 1990s for two felonies, but one was dropped and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor, according to a Daily Times background check conducted this week.

Goldberg served 83 days in Broward County Jail for two convictions that resulted from the felony arrests, according to Florida court dockets.

The Daily Times also investigated the backgrounds of the two other sheriff candidates, Ken Christesen, the current sheriff, and Mike Kovacs, who retired this week from his job as chief of the Bloomfield Police Department. But investigations found no record of illegal activity in Christesen's or Kovacs' backgrounds.

Ken Christesen
Ken Christesen (Courtesy of Ken Christesen)

According to a Broward County court docket, Goldberg spent nearly three months in jail for acting as a bail bondsman while being employed by a law enforcement agency, which is a third-degree felony in Florida. He was arrested in December 1990 on the charge and held on a $1,000 bond.

"That case actually did occur, and it was me," Goldberg said.

But he was only a certified police officer then, he said, and had resigned from the police department and recertified as a bail bondsman. Broward County deputies then arrested him on the felony charge, which was a misunderstanding, he said.

The court later dismissed the charge, he said.

"So there is no felony conviction," he said.

But court records show he was convicted on a misdemeanor charge related to that arrest.

He was also arrested in Florida in September 1992 on two counts of tax evasion, one of which was a third-degree felony, according to a court docket.

He initially pleaded not guilty but a year later, in August 1993, changed his plea to guilty and was convicted for a misdemeanor, according to the records. He was held in Broward County Jail for one night on a $1,100 bond, according to the docket.

Mike Kovacs
Mike Kovacs (Courtesy of Mike Kovacs)

Goldberg denied this conviction.

Goldberg said Christesen has repeatedly accused him of being a convicted felon and has withheld evidence showing he has no felony convictions. Goldberg on Thursday morning filed a lawsuit in San Juan County District Court against the sheriff and other defendants. The lawsuit charges Christesen with libel, among other things, and demands restitution of at least $1 million, according to the lawsuit.

"If you don't want to be investigated by the sheriff's office, do not be involved in criminal activities," Christesen said, adding that he had never accused Goldberg of any felony convictions.

The Daily Times background check also revealed that Goldberg had two liens issued against him, one in 1995 in New Jersey and the other in 2006 in San Juan County.

The nearly 20-year-old lien issued in New Jersey was to collect $193.85 in public defender fees, according to the background check.

Goldberg said the lien did exist and that he had paid it. He said he incurred the fines when the state charged him with possession of an extended magazine for a firearm. At the time, he said, he was a licensed federal firearms dealer, and he did not know the state's laws prohibited extended magazines.

The Internal Revenue Service issued the other lien to collect $11,954 from Goldberg.

"That was an error," he said.

A Florida resident named Joseph Fucheck listed on his tax returns that he had paid Goldberg $25,000, Goldberg said, adding that the man never paid him the money. The man also used Goldberg's social security number to report miscellaneous income, Goldberg said.

Fucheck scammed others, and when Goldberg learned last year he had been a victim he alerted the IRS, he said. The agency is now investigating Fucheck, he said.

"I think that it is very important for people before they make decisions (on election day) to not only look at some of the background, but to look at what they have actually done, in the sense of accomplishments and achievements, and not what they say they're going to do," Christesen said.

When informed of the background check results, Kovacs said, "I think it's unfortunate that the candidate seeking an elected position like this, in our county, would have such a questionable background."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.