A former civilian employee-of-the-year at a Seattle area police department was charged earlier this month with stealing more than $51,000 from the evidence room.
The multiple thefts were discovered during a routine audit in January 2015, when the civilian evidence room coordinator called in sick and auditors at the Bothell Police Department northeast of Seattle discovered the evidence room safe empty. After that, three additional audits were conducted of the Bothell Police Department. All found “discrepancies” in how evidence was logged and stored. The civilian employee was fired in February 2015, but it wasn't until this month that he was just charged with theft in the first degree.
The evidence room coordinator, who had worked for the police department for 24 years, was named civilian employee of the year in 2000.
The employee confessed that he had taken cash from the safe between eight and 10 times when he was going through a divorce and experiencing financial problems. He said he intended to return the cash, but the theft got out of hand.
In addition to $51,500 in missing cash, mostly from police seizures, other “high-risk evidence” is unaccounted for, including jewelry and “narcotics items.”
“The city entrusted the former evidence room coordinator as the only employee directly responsible for overseeing the property held in the evidence room such as cash, jewelry, narcotics, and weapons,” according to the auditor's report. “Oversight over this employee and the evidence room was limited to an annual audit performed by the police department. The nature of the audit was a spot check for randomly selected items rather than a full inventory of the evidence room.”
In the past, to cover the thefts, the employee was able to modify and delete evidence from the records-management system without oversight, according to the auditor's report.
The missing evidence was not expected to compromise police investigations or criminal prosecutions.
A person is guilty of theft in the first degree if he or she commits theft of:
- Property or services exceeding $5,000 in value other than a firearm;
- Property of any value, other than a firearm or a motor vehicle, taken from the person of another;
- A search and rescue dog, while the search and rescue dog is on duty; or
- Commercial metal property, nonferrous metal property or private metal property, and the costs of the damage to the owner's property $5,000 in value.
Theft in the first degree is a Class B felony punishable by 10 years, a fine of $25,000, or by both.
No matter the crime or the circumstances, everyone is entitled to the best defense available. If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.