Ex-California probation officer convicted of stealing money while executing search warrants

A former Orange County probation officer was convicted Thursday of stealing money while helping carry out search warrants.

Juan Manuel Rodriguez was convicted by an Orange County Superior Court jury of one felony count of grand theft and one misdemeanor count of petty theft, but was found not guilty of a second misdemeanor count of petty theft.

Rodriguez, then a deputy Orange County probation officer, was serving at the time as a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Tactical Apprehension Team, which was tasked with serving search warrants, arrest warrants and making contact with probationers.

Following an Aug. 8, 2017 visit by the law enforcement team to a Santa Ana home to serve a search warrant, two men accused Rodriguez of stealing hundreds of dollars from their wallets.

According to a trial brief filed by prosecutors, both men identified Rodriguez out of a photo lineup as the man they believed had stolen their money during the search of the Santa Ana home.

A sheriff’s deputy set up a sting with a “bait vehicle” with $1,200 in cash inside of it — some in plain view, some hidden in compartments — that was parked near another Santa Ana home where the team was carrying out an unrelated search, according to the trial brief.

A deputy asked Rodriguez to search the bait car for evidence, according to the trial brief. Prosecutors alleged that Rodriguez kept $1,190 in cash from the bait car, only reporting to the others that he had found “a couple dollar bills and some Del Taco trash.”

According to the trial brief, the $1,190 from the bait car was found by other investigators in Rodriguez’s wallet, along with some Disney and Walmart gift cards he was accused of stealing from someone who lived at the home the team was searching.

Jurors found Rodriguez guilty of the grand theft count tied to the money in the bait car and the petty theft count tied to the gift cards, but not the petty theft count tied to the alleged theft of cash from the residents during the first search.

Rodriguez’s attorney, John Barnett, denied that Rodriguez was planning to steal the money. The defense attorney said Rodriguez was pulling a prank on his team leader and planned to turn the money in later.

Barnett confirmed that Rodriguez is no longer working for the probation department. Officials with the probation department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Staff writer Caitlin Antonios contributed to this report.

 

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