HOLLYWOOD

Retired Hollywood police sergeant under investigation for cash missing from evidence vault accused of stealing office supplies

 

dchang@MiamiHerald.com

A retired Hollywood police sergeant suspected in the theft of as much as $175,000 from an evidence locker allegedly stole about $200 worth of office supplies from the department storeroom in December, according to an internal affairs memo of the incident.

Sgt. John Nevins, who retired in April 2012 after 30 years with the Hollywood Police Department, was seen inside the storeroom of police headquarters on Dec. 16, 2012, in violation of a city policy that prohibits non-employees from entering restricted areas, according to the internal affairs memo.

Nevins was allowed into the storeroom by Tony Dong, a civilian clerk who was fired Feb. 15 for theft, incompetence, negligence of duty and conduct unbecoming a city employee — all violations related to the alleged theft of office supplies.

According to the Feb. 5 letter informing Dong of the police department’s intent to discipline to him, Dong allowed Nevins — his former boss — into police headquarters, and they both walked to a restricted access area of the storeroom, where they chatted for about one hour.

Before leaving, the memo states, Nevins asked Dong for some office supplies, and Dong complied. Surveillance video of the area captured images of Dong carrying a box and placing it inside Nevins’ sport utility vehicle. Among the supplies that Dong admitted giving Nevins were batteries, compact discs, ink cartridges and weekly planners.

Dong told investigators he received a call from Nevins early in the day on Dec. 16. Nevins wanted to stop by and say hello, Dong told investigators, and he showed up at the sally port door.

Dong said he had left Nevins alone in the storekeeper supervisor’s office for about 20 minutes. Dong also told investigators that he had given Nevins a key to the mechanics’ storage area so the retired sergeant could use the bathroom.

Nevins left police headquarters without returning the key, the letter states, and Dong had to drive to Nevins’ Cooper City home after his shift to retrieve it.

Dong also told investigators that he did not know how many times Nevins went in and out of the restricted access area of the storeroom during his Dec. 16 visit.

On Tuesday, Dong declined to speak with a reporter outside his Fort Lauderdale home.

Nevins, who supervised the vault from 2006 until his retirement in April 2012, is the focus of an investigation led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into missing cash — estimates range from $125,000 to $175,000 — from the evidence locker, although everyone who has overseen the vault for the past few years is being scrutinized, sources said.

The money allegedly went missing under Nevins’ watch, and he is now part of the criminal investigation, according to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.

It is not clear if the missing money is connected to the Dec. 16 incident involving the stolen office supplies.

Last week, Nevins acknowledged to The Miami Herald that he went to the Police Department on that date, but only to retrieve empty boxes from the storeroom. He said he was using the boxes to pack gifts for the needy.

On Tuesday, when confronted with the allegations that he stole office supplies from the storeroom, Nevins said: “It’s in my best interest to not comment any further.”

“I will be more than available to discuss this when it is all over,” he said.

Nevins said last week that he had not been contacted by FDLE or the state attorney’s office about the investigation.

Dong’s attorney, Michael Braverman, noted the city’s investigation into the stolen office supplies may be independent of the probe into the money missing from the evidence vault.

“There’s nothing in that letter, and certainly I have been told nothing by the city that my client has any involvement in anything else except for giving this ex-sergeant some office supplies,’’ Braverman said.

Braverman said Dong was simply acquiescing to a request from his former boss who “had a great amount of authority over him.’’

“When he was asked for these things by Nevins,’’ Braverman said, “he said over and over again, ‘That was my boss.’’’

He said Dong’s duties included handling items such as basic office supplies.

“He would catalog certain items that would be removed,’’ Braverman said, “and other things, without any record keeping, would be freely passed out to members of the Hollywood police department.’’

But Dong was not entirely forthcoming with investigators when the probe into the stolen office supplies began.

In a taped statement, Dong told investigators on Jan. 31, 2013 that he wasn’t specific about the office supplies during his initial statements because he was “scared.”

“He stated that he knew the office supplies belonged to the City of Hollywood Police Department and it was ‘wrong’ to give it to Mr. Nevins,” according to the letter signed by Acting Chief Vincent Affanato, who did not return calls seeking comment for this story. Affanato was not in charge of the department when the alleged theft occurred.

Retired Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner, who initiated the probe into why Nevins was inside the storeroom on Dec. 16, also did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Braverman said Dong may appeal his dismissal.

Dong, who began working for the city on May 20, 2002, has until March 1 to appeal his firing. He earned an hourly rate of $16.60, and had no disciplinary actions in his employment history, Braverman said.

Dong’s firing on Feb 15 came as a surprise to Hollywood’s elected leaders.

Mayor Peter Bober, Vice Mayor Dick Blattner and Commissioner Peter Hernandez said they had not heard about Dong’s termination as of Tuesday afternoon.

“People get hired and fired all the time and we usually don’t know about it,” Blattner said, adding that he could not comment on the ongoing investigation into the missing money.

Hernandez also declined to comment because of the investigation but called Dong’s situation “troublesome.”

“We have an issue with theft all around the city,’’ he said, “and now we have to be concerned that there may be something going on in the police department.”

Bober said he had not seen the letter regarding Dong and could not comment.

“I think it is important to not rush to judgment,” he said. “I have to see what the evidence is.”

Read more Broward stories from the Miami Herald

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