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S. Tucson ex-cop admits he embezzled $560,000

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

South Tucson, AZ

A former South Tucson police lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $560,000 from the city and its Police Department.  Richard Robles Garcia, 47, admitted taking the money between February 2004 and May 21, 2008, while in charge of the Police Department's asset-forfeiture program and its evidence room.

More than $500,000 of the stolen funds came from the sale of vehicles, guns and jewelry seized by South Tucson police, while nearly $60,000 was in the form of currency taken from the Police Department's evidence room, according to an information document filed in U.S. District Court. "It's an embarrassment to the Police Department," South Tucson City Manager Enrique Serna said Monday.

On May 22 of last year, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents executed search warrants on South Tucson city and police facilities, prompting the city to conduct its own investigation of Garcia, Serna said.

Garcia, who spent 13 years with the department, was fired on June 12, 2008, for misappropriation of funds after the internal investigation found Garcia had been cashing checks made out to the city and the Police Department.

Garcia admitted he took the money to fund a gambling habit, court documents show. Garcia, who also pleaded guilty to filing false federal income tax returns between 2004 and 2007, is facing between 33 and 41 months in prison. He also has agreed to pay restitution to both South Tucson and the Pima County Anti-Racketeering Fund, which serves as a central clearinghouse for all funds taken in by area law-enforcement agencies through criminal seizures. Garcia's sentencing is scheduled for April 6.

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