Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Prosecutor wrongly said Hernando sheriff's captain under investigation for stealing money

BROOKSVILLE — An assistant state attorney erred last week when he said in court that a Hernando sheriff's captain is suspected of stealing money.

The prosecutor, Matt Pila, was correct when he told a judge that Capt. Tom Garcia is on paid leave as the Sheriff's Office conducts a criminal investigation into its Vice and Narcotics Unit, said Assistant State Attorney Donald "Sonny" McCathran.

"But he is not under investigation for stealing money," said McCathran, who oversees the Brooksville office. "That part is not accurate."

The Sheriff's Office announced Nov. 27 that two employees had been placed on paid leave pending a criminal investigation involving the unit. It has not released any other details.

The Times reported Saturday that Garcia's identity was publicly confirmed during a Hernando Circuit Court hearing about a search warrant for a marijuana grow house.

A defense attorney asked a vice detective on the stand if Garcia was under investigation for "stealing money." The detective deferred to Pila, who said Garcia was under investigation. When the defense attorney asked if it was for "a crime involving dishonesty," Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. asked Pila to confirm if "Garcia is under investigation for stealing money."

Pila said yes.

A Sheriff's Office lawyer called McCathran on Monday to say that was incorrect.

McCathran said the Sheriff's Office informed him of the investigation about the time it was launched. He said he relayed to the attorneys in his office the names of the two employees but didn't say who was being investigated for what.

McCathran said he plans to listen to a recording of the hearing and discuss it with Pila.

An 18-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, Garcia was promoted last month to captain and now oversees both the Vice and Major Case units. He could not be reached Tuesday.

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