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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Sheriff's captain's conduct unbecoming, investigation finds

Hernando Today staff report

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BROOKSVILLE - An internal investigation has determined Hernando sheriff's Captain Thomas Garcia acted improperly when he replaced missing money in a sergeant's vice and narcotics department account.

In December, Sgt. Joseph Reid resigned after a joint investigation between the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and State Attorney's Office found he stole at least $1,500 in vice-issued money.

Reid, who resigned after being confronted with the allegations, is facing criminal charges of grand theft of more than $300 and less than $20,000.

Garcia was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, but not disciplined or charged with a crime. He resigned last week as the investigation was being completed.

The internal investigation report shows it was no secret in the vice and narcotics department that Reid had money problems. Numerous detectives told investigating Det. James Boylan that Reid asked to borrow personal money from them, and asked them to sign over agency-issued cash. Rumors of Reid taking money from his subordinates' desks floated around the unit, and detectives said they had heard Reid say it was "okay to spend investigative funds on personal expenses as long as the money is replaced before the books are checked."

Reid asked to borrow personal money from other detectives for utility bills and to put gas in his vehicle. The detectives believe he instead spent the money on fast food, vacations and trips to Busch Gardens, the investigation found. Reid's salary was also being garnished by court order.

Multiple detectives, whose names are redacted from the report, say Reid still owes them money. One sergeant told investigators Reid still owes him a "few thousand dollars."

Vice and narcotics detectives are assigned between $50 and $500, according to sheriff's office policy, but according to secretary Robyn Aldrich, Reid's log book showed more than $2,000 back in 2011.

Aldrich, who balances the detectives' books, said she let Garcia know about Reid's balance, and Garcia himself replaced $1,500 of his own money in the vice safe later in the day.

A review of Reid's book by Assistant State Attorney Phil Hanson shows Reid's balances kept increasing without any documented expenditures, according to the report.

During an interview on Dec. 9, Garcia said Reid probably should have been arrested for taking the department's money, and that he should have notified his supervisor back in 2011.

The investigation concluded Garcia's performance was unsatisfactory, and found his conduct unbecoming of an officer. The investigation found Aldrich, the administrative assistant, failed to report the misconduct.

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