The Scranton Times Tribune, thetimes-tribune.com
BYLINE: Joe McDonald, Staff Writer
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A former Scranton detective accused of stealing drug money from an evidence room seven years ago pleaded guilty to theft Friday in Lackawanna County Court.
Leonard F. Ash Jr., 42, of 3015 Jones St., admitted he stole more than $8,400 from the evidence room at the Scranton Police Department in a brief court appearance before Judge Vito Geroulo.
The cash, seized in a 2001 drug arrest at 636 N. Main Ave., was discovered missing last summer when someone in the district attorney's office opened an envelope and found only blank pieces of paper bundled in rolls to mimic "drug rolls" of cash.
The district attorney's office handed over the investigation to state police. During an interview in December at the Dunmore state police barracks, Mr. Ash admitted he took the cash and replaced it with blank papers, investigators said in court papers.
Following Mr. Ash's arrest, then-Public Safety Director Ray Hayes said the theft was the result of "human failure" not a "systemic failure."
On Friday, Mr. Ash formally pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking, a first-degree misdemeanor. Mr. Ash, who is free on $20,000 unsecured bail, is expected to be sentenced later this spring. Police Chief David Elliott said Mr. Ash was fired March 26 from the department after he failed to show for a hearing.
Mr. Ash had a long career as a Scranton police officer and comes from a law enforcement family.
He joined the department in 1990 and went on to lead the city's drug unit and supervise a special investigations division.
The son of former Duryea Police Chief Leonard Ash Sr., Mr. Ash was among the youngest officers to graduate from the state police's Northeastern Training Center in Forty Fort.
Mr. Ash's father also wound up on the wrong side of the law after he retired. In 2000, the former police chief pleaded no contest to using a handgun from the evidence locker as collateral for a $4,000 personal loan.
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