Former Mason City trooper accused of stealing drug evidence

Jun 10, 2016

MASON CITY — A former Iowa State Patrol sergeant who resigned earlier this week was charged Friday with stealing drugs from the Mason City post's evidence room.

Michael Haugen, 31, Forest City, was arrested about 10 a.m. Friday for one felony count of falsifying public documents and a misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft.

Investigators say Haugen took approximately 150 prescription pills from six criminal cases from 2014 to 2016 from the evidence room at the Iowa State Patrol post in Mason City, according to court documents. 

One of three evidence room custodians, Haugen allegedly admitted to taking drugs stored in the room a total 18 times from 5-8 cases and replacing them with other pills, such as aspirin.Haugen appeared before a magistrate Friday morning and was released on bond.Court records available Friday did not list an attorney for Haugen. 

A request for comment relayed through one of his immediate family members was not returned Friday afternoon.Haugen had been on administrative leave since March 25 and was fired last month. His termination would have gone into effect on Monday if he didn't appeal the firing.Instead, he resigned, citing an addiction to opioid painkillers he developed while being treated for ulcerative colitis and another intestinal disorder, C. difficile, or C-diff.

According to a criminal complaint, an audit of the Mason City Iowa State Patrol post's evidence room in April found suspected tampering in six criminal cases, including four that involved opioid painkillers hydrocodone or OxyContin.Officials say these cases were:

* A Feb. 19, 2012, seizure of several pills of hydrocodone and OxyContin as well as drugs believed to be Alpazadam (sic) and Tramadol.

* A Jan. 13, 2013, seizure of 109 OxyContin pills found during a traffic stop.

* An April 26, 2014, seizure of six hydrocodone pills. 

* A May 1, 2015, seizure of multiple OxyContin, Trazaodone, Clonazepam and amphetamine salts.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety on Friday notified prosecutors who had cases where evidence was allegedly compromised. The prosecutors will decide whether action needs to be taken on those cases as a result of the allegations against Haugen, said Department of Public Safety Spokesman Alex Murphy."All prosecution decisions about these cases are made by the county attorneys," Murphy said. "It's not the department's decision." Three of those cases were in Cerro Gordo County.County Attorney Carlyle Dalen planned to review the cases to see what impact, if any, the allegations against Haugen had on the three cases and if the defense attorneys involved should be contacted.

All three cases have been closed."It's important to me to make sure that if people did plead guilty to cases, that appropriate evidence was supportive of the facts," Dalen said. "If there's ever a case where there's some allegations of tampering, I want to know whether that affects that case in any way, shape or form.

"And, if there's some question as to whether there's some problem with the evidence I have no problems in bringing those cases back up and taking a look at them to see whether there was sufficient evidence for the prosecution of the case," Dalen said.In addition to the alleged thefts, the evidence room audit of the Iowa State Patrol post in Mason City found a bottle of Adderall stored in a different bag than the one it was placed in after examination by criminalists at the Iowa State Crime Lab, according to court documents filed against Haugen.

The bottle left the state lab in bag with dates and initials written on it to highlight the chain of evidence, but was later found in the Mason City evidence room in a clear plastic bag with a blank label, documents say.Those pills were seized during a traffic stop March 14 by another trooper, not Haugen.Details on Haugen's next court appearance were not immediately available on Friday.

Investigators say Trooper took approximately 150 prescription pills from six criminal cases from 2014 to 2016 from the evidence room at the Iowa State Patrol post in Mason City, according to court documents.

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