Former Officer of the Year sentenced

The Sun (Yuma, Arizona)
BYLINE: James Gilbert, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

Yuma, AZ

Jan. 23--The former Yuma police officer convicted of stealing cash from evidence storage to support an addiction to prescription drugs has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

The sentence for Geoffrey Michael Presco was handed down Friday afternoon in Yuma County Superior Court by Judge Larry Kenworthy, who also gave the former cop credit for 12 days served and ordered he pay nearly $6,000 in restitution.

Presco stole nearly $11,000 from evidence storage at the police department.

"I'm going to have to live with this mistake for the rest of my life, no matter what the decision is," Presco said while addressing the court shortly before sentencing.

Presco also offered apologies to his family, the court and prosecution, the Yuma Police Department and to the community.

Judge Kenworthy called the case difficult from a sentencing standpoint, saying both sides had presented valid arguments for the punishment they were requesting.

"In this case, the court views that a prison sentence is necessary for public condemnation," Kenworthy said.

Prior to Presco being taken into custody, his attorney asked if the court would delay the imposition of the sentence and allow him to turn himself in voluntarily in approximately six weeks. The attorney explained that Presco's wife is eight months pregnant and he wanted to be present for the child's birth and make preparations to move his family back to Ohio.

Kenworthy said the court would consider the request at a sentencing hearing, which he scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 27, but ordered that Presco be taken into custody until then.

Presco was arrested in June 2009 on suspicion of one count of theft for allegedly taking the money, which was evidence from a case he was handling.

He later confessed to spending the money to support his drug habit, saying he was addicted to the prescription drug Oxycontin. He had been taking the drug for a knee injury.

Presco eventually pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices in an Oct. 2009 plea agreement, with prosecutors dismissing four other theft and drug charges.

Under the terms of that plea agreement, Presco could have been sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison.

The YPD officially terminated Presco back in June 2009. In his rookie year on the force, Presco was selected as YPD's 2008 Patrol Officer of the Year.

Prior to sentencing Prosecutor Roger Nelson asked the judge to impose a prison sentence, saying the crimes Presco committed substantially eroded the public trust bestowed upon law enforcement and has harmed the administration of the justice.

"As a police officer Presco was a public servant and he committed the crimes over the course of his duty, which violated the trust the community places in the police department," Nelson said. "It doesn't take long for that trust to erode when a police officer does something like this."

Nelson added that the county attorney's office had to dismiss 12 cases as a result of Presco's crimes and may lose some additional cases on appeal in which the defendants have already been convicted.

Kenworthy said he considered many aggravating and mitigating factors in issuing his sentence. Among the aggravating factors were Presco's status as a public servant at the time, the damage the case caused to the administration of the justice system and the fact he committed the crimes during the course of his duty.

Among the mitigating factors, Kenworthy said he took into consideration that Presco had no criminal history prior to this conviction and that his family would suffer extreme hardship, he had an addiction to pain killers, and that he was impaired at the time he committed the crime.

Sometime late in 2008, Presco seized $11,000 in cash, drug paraphernalia and some clothing during an investigation and placed them into the evidence locker.

According to Yuma police, an investigation into the missing evidence began after another YPD employee who was following up on the case discovered the money and evidence were missing.

The investigation, police said, revealed that Presco had checked out the evidence from storage on Feb. 23 for a supposed court proceeding but never returned it.

During the department's investigation into the missing items, police contacted Presco, who admitted he had the evidence but had not returned it yet.

As part of the investigation, police were sent to Presco's home to retrieve the evidence, only to be given bags of evidence but no money.

Presco, according to testimony given during a previous hearing, has been cooperating fully with police since his arrest.

James Gilbert can be reached at or 539-6854.

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