Tired of waiting for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to finish its investigation into money missing from the Hollywood Police Department’s evidence locker, Assistant City Manager Frank Fernandez has ordered an internal review including an inventory of the locker.
“I don’t know what’s in there,” said Fernandez, who oversees the city’s police department. “We need to have accountability.”
Fernandez said FDLE’s ongoing investigation into what could be as much as $175,000 missing from the evidence locker will continue, but he believes the city needs to look into department policies and procedures, and get a better grasp of what is in there and what, if anything, is missing.
“Given the allegations that have surfaced with the property unit, we have an obligation to inventory and audit the unit to ensure the integrity,” said Fernandez, who has met with FDLE for updates on the case, but would not elaborate on the investigation. “Our investigation will not jeopardize the case.”
Broward County and state law enforcement authorities have been looking into the missing money — estimates range from $125,000 to $175,000 — from Hollywood’s property locker for nearly a year.
Sources have told the Miami Herald that the FDLE investigation is focusing on retired Sgt. John Nevins, whose job included overseeing the evidence room until he retired in April 2011. However, everyone who has had contact with the locker is being scrutinized.
That following December, Nevins was capture on surveillance tape carrying boxes out of the police department to his car.
Nevins told the Miami Herald that the boxes — which he took from the storage room, not the property vault — were empty and he was using them to pack gifts for the needy.
A civilian employee, Tony Dong, was later fired after he was later seen on video letting Nevins, his former boss, in and letting him leave with the boxes.
When contacted recently, Nevins said it was in “his best interest” not to comment.
He earlier denied having anything to do with the missing money.
“I have never taken anything out of the property vault,’’ Nevins said. “I only took some empty boxes from the storage area.’’
Nevins also said that when he took over the vault in 2006, “it was a mess.”
Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the FDLE, said Thursday that because the investigation was still active, she could not comment. The Broward State Attorney’s Office also said it could not comment on the case.
The property locker, which is under video monitoring and scanned inventory control, stores all property seized in connection with a criminal case including money, drugs, guns and other valuables collected at a crime scene.
Employees, civilians and police officers can only enter the evidence area with permission and must be buzzed in and sign a log, according to police department procedure manual.
Fernandez said he and Interim Chief Vincent Affanato have already made some changes, including a new key card system and more cameras “to tighten up security.”
But Fernandez said he is working with the city’s procurement department to hire a company that can go through all of the department’s logs and make sure the records match the property being stored.
He also wants make sure the city’s procedures are up-to-date and being followed. As part of a bigger effort to put all sworn officers on the street, a civilian employee, rather than a sworn officer, will soon be hired to oversee the locker.
“This is something we take very seriously,” Fernandez said. “We owe to our ourselves and our residents.”