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Ex-Lyndhurst officer admits to drug theft

www.news-herald.com
BYLINE: Tracey Read,
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Lyndhurst, OH

A former Lyndhurst police officer who resigned after overdosing on drugs has admitted stealing heroin from the evidence room.

Robert Colombo, 40, of Northfield Center Township, pleaded guilty Monday to drug possession and theft in office in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

He now faces up to one year in prison on each count when he is sentenced Jan. 20 by Judge Michael J. Russo.

He also could be sentenced to an additional year in prison if convicted of a pending felony drug possession case in Summit County.

"I'm saddened and pained by the whole thing," Lyndhurst Police Chief Rick Porrello said. "It's a very difficult balancing act for me. On one hand, I'm dealing with an officer who has been a friend for 15 years. On the other hand, he was a police officer and we hold ourselves to a higher standard by virtue of our authority."

According to Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brad Meyer:

On May 19, Lyndhurst officers responded to a car crash at Richmond and Anderson roads in that city. The officers found heroin, arrested two people and returned to the station to book the suspects.

At the station, Colombo took the heroin to log it into the evidence room, but instead replaced it with rock salt.

On May 20, the married father of two was found at his Summit County home with heroin. Deputies there then called Porrello to report that Colombo had overdosed.

"In the beginning, we were concerned he wouldn't make it with the overdose," Porrello said. "We're thankful it didn't turn out worse."

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a third charge of tampering with evidence.

The chief noted that he called the Ohio Attorney General's Office to investigate the incident to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

"This is a fantastic group of men and women who make up this police department," the chief added. "We hope the community realizes we've done our job in policing ourselves by calling in an outside agency to investigate this. He was a good police officer who made a very bad choice that has caused quite a bit of pain to his family and the police department."

Colombo remains free on a personal recognizance bond pending his sentencing. He has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

Defense attorney Dominic Vitantonio did not immediately return a phone call.

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