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Black Tie Charity Ball nearing
Tickets are $75 per person to benefit police, fire explorers
Former Ceres Police officer George Piro will be the keynote speaker at the March 7 Black Tie Charity Ball in Ceres. Piro interviewed Saddam Hussein as an FBI employee.

The Ceres Chamber of Commerce's first annual Black Tie Charity Ball is nearing with a number of unsold tables remaining.

Set for Saturday, March 7, the formal attire event will raise funds for the explorer programs of police and fire services.

Three speakers - all who had roles with the Ceres Department of Public Safety over the years - are scheduled to speak. They include former Ceres Police officer George Piro, who later went to work for the FBI in 1999 and became the team leader and lead interrogator of the Saddam Hussein Interrogation Team after his capture; Sheriff Adam Christiansen, who was formerly a Ceres police officer; and state Senator Anthony Cannella, who was a volunteer firefighter.

The dinner, billed as a tribute to "Public Safety: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow," will take place at the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth Street. One of the rooms will feature displays of photos and memorabilia from police and fire divisions. A cocktail reception, silent auction, awards, live big band music and three course dinner are part of the evening.

Chamber President Renee Ledbetter said that approximately 17 tables with about 100 more tickets available. Tickets are $75 per person or $400 for a table of eight. Sales are available through the Chamber website,

Piro, who began working with Ceres Police Department in 1989, was featured on the January 2008 60 Minutes TV show and revealed that he had secretly gained the confidence of Hussein while interrogating him as he was imprisoned after the second war in Iraq. During his conversations with Hussein, Piro reported that Hussein had not expected a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Piro also confirmed through their discussions that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003, but that Hussein would not give up attempts to obtain them in order to secure his country from the perceived threat posed by Iran and its weapons program. Further, any links to Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were denied, as Hussein held himself as a secular ruler and did not believe in the creation of an Islamic state.

Senator Cannella served as a volunteer firefighter from 1987 to 1992.

Sheriff Christianson was employed with Ceres Police Department before going to Modesto Police Department and Sheriff's Department in 1996. He became sheriff in 2006 after Les Weidman chose not to run for re-election.

Former Ceres Police detective and now Truckee, Calif. Police Chief Adam McGill will serve as the event emcee. The Ceres High School graduate served as a senior police adviser/diplomat with the U.S. State Department in Iraq for 22 months before he was appointed Truckee police chief in February 2012.

A private reception with Piro will be offered at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 6 at the home of Supervisor Jim DeMartini in rural Ceres. Tickets for the "Face-to-Face with Agent George Piro" reception are $25 per person and available through with the password piro for access. Tickets are also available by calling the Chamber at 537-2601.