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Retired Hollywood police officer is focus of theft investigation

The Hollywood, Florida police department has endured a number of scandals over the years. Another one came to light recently. It appears that somewhere between $125,000 and $175,000 in cash has disappeared from the department's evidence room. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Broward State Attorney's Office have opened and investigation. A retired officer who was in charge of the evidence room for five years is said to be the focus of the investigation, although investigators are looking at other people as well. Whether this is a case of theft or simple mismanagement remains to be seen.

When police seize property as evidence in a criminal case, the evidence is stored in an evidence room like the one at issue in the current investigation. Because mishandled evidence could lead to a case being dismissed, police department procedures call for all evidence to be logged in. Cash is kept separately from other evidence. The room is under constant video surveillance.

Videotapes allegedly show the retired officer removing boxes out the back door of the room. Investigators are also looking into an incident in which an employee allowed the officer to return to the evidence room after he retired and leave with some boxes. The retired officer says he simply came to get some empty boxes that he could use to pack gifts for poor people.

The money was discovered to be missing when someone went to the room to collect evidence to be used in a case. The money allegedly disappeared sometime in 2012.

The investigation is still ongoing and nobody had been charged at the time this post was written. If someone ultimately faces theft charges in connection with the missing cash, prosecutors will have to prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. The accused will have the right to cross-examine witnesses called for the prosecution, and to take the stand in their own defense. An experienced property crimes defense attorney can exploit any holes in the prosecution's case.

Source: Miami Herald, "Investigators probe cash missing from Hollywood Police Department's evidence room," Julie K. Brown, Carli Teproff & Melissa Sanchez, Feb. 14, 2013

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