LARGO — Prosecutors have decided they do not have enough evidence to charge a former Pinellas County sheriff's deputy accused of keeping cash intended for a confidential informer.
Narcotics Detective Jeffrey McConaughey was assigned to a federal drug task force in South Florida about three years ago when he submitted a receipt saying he had paid the informer $200 with Sheriff's Office money.
The informer later complained that he never received the cash.
McConaughey resigned in December while under investigation by internal affairs. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri referred the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution.
But the case — a misdemeanor-level theft — depended heavily on the statement of the informer, who would not have made a good witness, chief assistant state attorney Bruce Bartlett said Tuesday.
The informer had a criminal record, had complained a year after the fact and was generally unhappy with how much he was getting paid, Bartlett said.
"As a practical standpoint,'' Bartlett said, "we just didn't feel there was enough evidence to go forward and sustain criminal charges.''
McConaughey could not be reached for comment.
Gualtieri said he understood the prosecutor's position but was still disappointed.
After his internal affairs unit investigated the receipt, "I feel very comfortable that we had probable cause'' to pursue charges, Gualtieri said. "But at the end of the day, the state attorney has to apply what they think is a reasonable likelihood before a jury to get a conviction.''
Prosecutors made their decision last week and filed paperwork Monday, Bartlett said. Gualtieri said he did not learn of the decision until Tuesday, when the Tampa Bay Times asked him about it.
In an interview Monday, Gualtieri had said that — if it were up to him — he would arrest McConaughey for theft if he showed up in Pinellas County.
On Tuesday, Gualtieri clarified that statement.
People actually cannot be arrested on most misdemeanor thefts unless a law enforcement officer personally witnesses the crime, Gualtieri said. In those situations, suspects cannot be arrested until prosecutors levy the charges.