Theft from police department totals $8,000 Audit discovered the missing cash

March 16, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

A three-month internal audit of the police department's property section has shown that a previously reported theft was nearly three times greater than police estimated.

Police Chief James N. Robey said Friday that $8,000 was stolen by former employees, but no guns, drugs or other property was taken. Police had believed that about $3,000 had been stolen.

The department assigned five investigators to conduct an internal audit of its property records after the county auditor's office discovered a theft and other discrepancies in the property section records in October.

Assistant Auditor Brenda Dean, working under the direction of County Auditor Ronald S. Weinstein, found small discrepancies between the cash reported and the cash accounted for in several 1989 cases.

Mr. Weinstein had asked Ms. Dean to examine the police department's internal controls over cash, drugs, jewelry and guns that were confiscated in arrests and used as evidence in trials.

While tracking a group of cases to discover how property is received, protected, taken to and from court and disposed of once a case is closed, Ms. Dean discovered that jewelry and drugs had been logged out of the property section but not logged back in, and that more than $3,000 in cash had been taken in a series of small thefts.

Chief Robey's investigators took over and began reviewing records dating back to 1980. No thefts were discovered earlier than 1989, he said, and the missing jewelry and drugs were found in a vault at the county courthouse.

A property section employee who was fired in November admitted to taking $5,000 in small amounts of money from the property room safe when no one else was around, Chief Robey said.

The chief said there was never more than $10,000 in small bills in the safe and that the employee would occasionally take amounts ranging from $40 to $385. He said he believes the other $3,000 was taken by a property section employee who was fired for stealing an undisclosed amount of money from the property room three years ago.

The earlier theft occurred before he assumed command, Chief Robey said. Both employees were fired following discovery of the thefts, but neither has been charged.

The thefts occurred because "basically, we weren't following our own procedures," Chief Robey said. "The bottom line is that we screwed up and did not do our job checking what was occurring in there."

The chief said he is "very confident" that procedures now in place will prevent such thefts from occurring again.

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