A former Butte County Sheriff’s Office evidence technician admitted guilt to felony charges of Grand Theft and Falsification of Public Records Tuesday in Butte County Superior Court.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Kathleen Acosta, 48, of Oroville, stole items from the sheriff’s evidence locker, including, among other things, 20 firearms and prescription drugs. Ramsey said Acosta covered up her actions by falsifying the records used to track the location and status of property stored within the evidence property building.
The thefts and fraud were discovered after an Oroville Police officer stopped a vehicle Acosta was driving after a domestic dispute on January 1, 2017. As a result of that stop, a gun, a small quantity of methamphetamine and prescriptions drugs in sheriff’s office evidence packaging were found in Acosta’s car. The officer notified the Sheriff’s Office of the discovery. Sheriff’s detectives took over the investigation and searched Acosta’s residence and two rental storage units. The searches turned up additional items of property stolen from the sheriff’s evidence-property building, which included more prescription drugs and 19 additional firearms.
All 20 firearms in Acosta’s possession had been slated for destruction in February 2015. Ramsey said none of the items recovered from Acosta were evidence in any pending criminal cases. Detectives determined Acosta had falsified documents which were used to track the disposition of contraband and property to be destroyed or disposed of in accordance with the law.
Acosta’s employment at the Sheriff’s Office ended in May 2016 when she resigned. Acosta’s resignation was tendered after she was advised she was facing termination for mishandling property stored in the evidence-property building, in violation of established procedures, and then attempting to conceal the misconduct from a newly assigned supervisor to the unit. At the time, the matter was handled as a work performance issue as there was no evidence to believe any property had been stolen.
During an investigation into Acosta’s work related misconduct, an independent audit and review of property handling procedures was commissioned by the Sheriff’s Office. The audit did not reveal any theft of the items by Acosta, likely due to Acosta’s falsification of documents showing the property had been properly disposed of. However, additional procedures and safeguards were recommended and the need for an updated evidence-property facility was confirmed by the audit.
Ramsey said the Sheriff’s Office implemented enhanced procedures and safeguards and plans to construct an updated evidence-property facility are moving forward.
Acosta is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20, 2017 in the Butte County Superior Court and is facing a maximum term of 3 years and 8 months in County Prison. Acosta remains out of custody on bail pending the sentencing hearing.