TAMPA — A veteran Tampa police detective who was once named the department's Officer of the Year was fired and then arrested Friday on a charge of grand theft after police say she stole $1,900 in IRS money orders from the evidence room.
Jeanette Hevel, 46, had worked for Tampa police since 1986 and was a detective in the office's Criminal Intelligence Bureau. Uncovered Monday, the loss occurred two years ago.
On Dec. 7, 2011, Hevel logged into the evidence room to "review evidence." Instead, police said, she took four IRS money orders that had been confiscated from an arrested suspect in a marijuana possession case the month before.
Almost two weeks later, Hevel cashed two of them for $1,000. She deposited the remaining $900 into her personal checking account the next day, police said.
The theft went unnoticed until Monday when the Civil Recovery Division of the IRS contacted Tampa police in search of the money orders, police said. A swift investigation was conducted, leading to Hevel's arrest Friday afternoon, when she turned herself in at her attorney's office.
Hevel was terminated, then taken to Hillsborough County jail. She was booked into the jail at 2:55 p.m., jail records show, and released 61 minutes later after posting $2,000 bail.
"We have investigated her case with the same diligence that we pursued every other offender stealing tax dollars from our citizens," police Chief Jane Castor said at a news conference. "We have made tremendous progress in stopping the tide of tax fraud, so it is a staggering betrayal to have a member of the Tampa Police Department engage in this crime or any other crime. It will not be tolerated."
Hevel amassed a personnel file filled with glowing reviews as she moved her way up the ranks from community service officer to school resource officer to detective, including being named Officer of the Year in 2004.
In her most recent review, which took place in December 2012, Capt. Michael Baumaister wrote that Hevel is "a valuable asset to the bureau and is a person I can trust to handle any assignment given to her."
The words "courteous," "trustworthy" and "hard worker" are scattered throughout her file. Letters of appreciation from mayors and citizens single out Hevel repeatedly for her good work.
Hevel did not respond to calls from the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.
The missing money orders went undetected for so long, Castor said, because they were not connected to any criminal case and belonged to the IRS, which had not requested them until this week.
Police are still investigating to determine whether any other funds were stolen.
"We are looking at every encounter that she has had in the property room and with any evidence to ensure that there haven't been any," Castor said. "But I can tell you that in my 29 years of experience with the Police Department, that thieves usually don't do it once."
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Will Hobson contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.