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NOPD evidence room is short $3,440 in cash, audit finds

The Times-Picayune,
BYLINE: Times-Picayune Staff
Link to Article

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans police are investigating the disappearance of $3,440 in cash held at the NOPD's Central Evidence and Property Room, which was uncovered in an audit of the facility.

Officers with the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau are trying to figure out what happened to the money, which was held in three different envelopes. The money was property seized during three different 2005 cases, said Remi Braden, an NOPD spokeswoman. The cash wasn't evidence in any pending case, she said.

The lost money was discovered during a "thorough" audit of the evidence room, the first conducted since Hurricane Katrina, Braden said.

The audit began in early February and concluded at the end of last month. During the audit, officers counted more than $1 million in cash held by the NOPD as property and evidence.

Missing cash at the NOPD's evidence room has been a repeat problem. In February, Superintendent Ronal Serpas acknowledged that $606 stored at the NOPD's Central Evidence and Property Room had disappeared. That money had gone missing from a secured lock box to store valuable evidence. Braden said PIB officers are still looking into that case.

Last year, at Serpas' request, the FBI began investigating a far more serious problem of vanished cash. In 2009, police officials acknowledged that more than $200,000 had disappeared from the evidence room since Hurricane Katrina. Two NOPD probes failed to identify the culprits, prompting Serpas to ask the FBI to step in after he took the helm of the NOPD in May 2010.

A report by the state Legislative Auditor found that the NOPD first discovered $10,700 was missing in December 2007. By the end of 2008, NOPD managers knew that more than $200,000 had disappeared from the evidence room shelves.

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