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PFLUGERVILLE — The Texas Rangers confirmed Thursday that they are assisting in a months-long investigation into missing money from the Pflugerville Police Department's evidence room, while officials say a separate, unrelated investigation of a police lieutenant also is underway.
The city launched an internal affairs investigation of police Lt. Laura Wilkes after authorities received information in mid-September leading to the inquiry, officials said.
The internal investigation, which began last week, isn't for a particular issue, said city spokeswoman Terri Toledo. She said it would be inappropriate at this time to identify the scope of the investigation but said that it wasn't related to the missing money. The amount missing wasn't disclosed.
Wilkes, one of four lieutenants according to the department's website, directs the Street Response, Narcotics and Animal Control divisions. Her LinkedIn page indicates she joined the Pflugerville Police Department in 1992.
City Manager Brandon Wade launched the internal affairs investigation, which is being led by an outside independent, nationally certified internal affairs investigator, Toledo said. It is being supervised by the city attorney's office, she said.
Neither Wilkes nor Police Chief Chuck Hooker, who announced this month that he will retire in January after a 33-year law enforcement career in Pflugerville, returned calls for comment Thursday.
"Unusual circumstances" led to the missing money, Wade said, but said he couldn't elaborate.
City officials first met with the Texas Rangers April 13, which is when that investigation began, Toledo said. Once the investigation is complete, details will be made public, Toledo said, adding that she was unable to say whether the case is being investigated as theft.
The money was discovered missing when someone, whom authorities didn't name, made a claim for the return of evidence, she said. The person making the claim is expected to appear before a municipal court judge at a hearing in January to state why he or she is entitled to the money.
Wade said the money was placed in the evidence room a few years ago and said authorities don't know when it disappeared. Wade said he directed the department to request an investigation from the Texas Rangers, which is standard procedure because the Police Department doesn't investigate itself.
No one has been suspended or fired over the missing money, and no other evidence appears to be missing from the room, Wade said.
The Police Department can log who enters the evidence room through key cards given to particular police staffers, Toledo said. A paper sign-in sheet also records the names of those accessing the vault inside the evidence room. Only chief lieutenants, investigators and supervisors are allowed in the room without an escort, Toledo said.
Toledo said that if someone contacts the police and asks if they have an item used as evidence, they will look at the name of the person involved in the case, the case number and the item description. The property room technician will advise the person if police have the item or not. If police have the item, they will check to see if there are pending charges in the case. If there are, the person wouldn't be allowed to have the item. If there are no pending charges, it may be released.
When an item is retrieved under a warrant and police know who the owner is, police will call and notify the person that police have their items and the person needs to come get them, she said. If police don't know the owner, they post a notice in the newspaper and people can come to the Police Department and make a claim for the item and then a hearing date is set, she said.
If no one comes or no one proves ownership of the item, she said, ownership is transferred to the city.