N4T Investigators: Douglas police sergeant under investigation n - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Douglas police sergeant under investigation now working code enforcement

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A ten year veteran police sergeant of the Douglas Police Department is being investigated for his alleged role in a series of fraud cases involving $3,000. The investigation has been going on for more than a year. Now the News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that the sergeant is back to work for the city of Douglas.

The case started in early 2014. Investigators with the Cochise County Sheriff's Office began to probe into a misuse of funds intended for a Douglas Police Explorer program. In a probable cause statement, sheriff's investigators said $3,286 were pulled from the explorer program account. Another $400 went missing or were never deposited.

“We took the investigation. It was assigned to our special investigations unit, general crimes where they investigated it, interviewed all the people involved to include the sergeant from the Douglas Police Department,” said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.

In addition, a woman, Michelle Ortega was ultimately charged with 53 felonies, related to the funds. She was indicted on charges of withdrawing cash with the Explorer credit card, and of using the card at Shell stations, a Family Dollar Store, a Food City store. In May of last year, Ortega wrote a letter stating she was sorry for “borrowing” the money and promised to return it.

“Our agency investigated it for all the right reasons and we turned it over to the county attorney for their review for criminal prosecution,” Dannels said.

“You know one thing we take serious no matter if it's one of my deputies or another officer in this county, if you take money or commit a crime we're not above the law and you'll be treated the same as anybody else, if not at a higher standard,” Dannels said.

The sergeant was placed on paid administrative leave.

Douglas city manager Carlos de la Torre declined to go on camera but spoke with us about the case. He said the sergeant is still employed by the police department but now works as a code enforcement officer. The sergeant also still draws the same pay of $50,955.84.

It appears the city created the position for the one time sergeant. De la torre said in an email that the city doesn't have a specific code enforcement job classification. Planning and zoning specialists who currently work code enforcement draw $47,200, about 4 thousand dollars less per year.

“Some cases operate on a high speed connection to the internet and some cases are still on dialup,” said Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre.

It's been a year and a half since the case was opened. McIntyre says the case is slowly unraveling but it's also lower priority in the backlog of cases.

“At the time when I took over in the office, our review pile, if you will it's actually a number of boxes, we were about six months behind,” McIntyre said.

The defense attorney in this case said he was surprised at how many felonies his client was targeted with. He's not representing the one-time police sergeant in the case, though, because that man has not been charged.

The criminal case is slated for more hearings in November. We'll continue to follow the case.

If you have a tip for the News 4 Tucson investigators, email investigators@kvoa.com or call 955-4444

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