None of the evidence against Juan Antonio Roca proved he engaged in any wrongdoing, said his lawyer, who did not explain how a city planner making $150,000 a year could afford two very large estates in Spain.
Also not explained by him: the private jet, the helicopter, the helipad overlooking the Rock of Gibraltar, the artwork by Picasso and Dali, the ranch where Roca raised fighting bulls, or the stud farm guarded by a tiger.
Also, the four other estates.
Noticing these items, sharp-eyed investigators suspected that Roca, who worked for the resort town of Marbella on Spain's Costa Del Sol, might be involved in more than planning. Roca's salary was not small potatoes, but unless tigers have gotten a lot cheaper lately, that kind of flamboyant spending generally draws attention. Prosecutors said they believed that Roca had gotten rich by taking enormous bribes from developers during the real-estate boom. Since construction permits could take up to four years to get, developers tended to start working while an application was pending. Roca would wait until developers had invested millions and then demand a bribe in exchange for the permit. He would also buy land, rezone it, and sell it for a huge markup.
You could say that the schemes were relatively profitable. In addition to the helipad, bull ranch, tiger and so forth, police found about 3.4 billion euros on Roca's various estates. Not estates worth 3.4 billion, but 3.4 billion in cash stuck in various hiding places. Actually, I don't know that he hid it. Maybe it was just lying around. Maybe he built his house out of it.
In January, Roca was sentenced to seven years in prison for misusing public funds. Bad news for the town mayor and city councillors, who (surprisingly!) were also stealing, and many of whom are currently on trial themselves. According to one report, in 1999 one of them claimed and collected travel expenses for allegedly driving 293,325 kilometers (182,263 miles), which is seven and a half times around the Earth. I suppose he showed restraint in not asking for a set of new tires.
I think this still does not eclipse my previous favorite story of flamboyant criminal over-expenditure, which had to do with Angela Platt, who embezzled about $7 million from her job until she was caught in 2006. Platt, who earned much less than Roca, owned a ranch, a house and five acres of land, eight show horses, and (remarkably) a life-size statue of Al Capone. For Halloween one year, she decorated her property with six animatronic talking trees and a 20-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon statue called "The Slayer." Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
Platt is also now in prison.