Two ex-Gwinnett County narcotics cops charged with embezzlement

Two former narcotics detectives from Gwinnett County accused of misusing department money intended for undercover investigations. A grand jury handed down an indictment on Wednesday, charging both men with violating the oath of a public officer and theft by taking. One of the men has also been charged with credit card fraud and the other faces first-degree forgery charges.

The criminal defense attorney for one of the defendants — who is a former lieutenant in charge of the Special Investigations Section and a 24-year veteran of the force — denies any wrongdoing by his client. The officer never took money for himself, the lawyer says, but, due to his overwhelming volume of work, made bookkeeping errors and mistakes in documentation. The money was actually used for legitimate investigations into the sale of drugs and illegal pornography.

Embezzlement, which is called “theft by taking” in Georgia, can be charged when a person has lawful possession of money or property for certain purposes but intentionally appropriates that money or property for himself.

24-year veteran cop accused of embezzlement denies wrongdoing; Says overwork and sloppy bookkeeping account for the money discrepancies

The former lieutenant, who resigned from the force in July 2009, months before his arrest, is accused of using a county credit card to pay for food, motel rooms and items at an adult novelty store. He is also accused of taking $4,000 in “flash money” — cash used to convince drug dealers that undercover officers are serious about making a drug buy.

According to his lawyer, the 24-year veteran cop was never given a chance to explain the credit card transactions. He denies that his client stole any of the “flash money,” although he knew he had not fully documented the amount in the safe. He planned to restore the funds before the next audit occurred, but another employee reported the alleged embezzlement to internal affairs.

“If the guy wanted to take money from the evidence room, he had many years to do that and he never did,” pointed out his attorney.

“He did not pay as much attention to that part of the job [bookkeeping and documentation] as he should have, and he’s admitted that, but it’s very different than committing a crime,” the defense lawyer argues.

The other defendant, a former narcotics detective, is accused of violating his oath as a public officer, theft by taking and forgery. On three occasions, he allegedly signed his supervisor’s name to authorize payments from a county account. It is unclear what events led to his being charged with embezzlement. The Atlanta Journal Constitution did not know if he had hired a criminal defense attorney.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter had no comment except to say that the two cases were connected. However, the men were not charged with engaging in a conspiracy.