Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Thousands of fraudulent tax claims linked to fired detective, court records suggest

The city of Tampa paid Eric Houston $85,654 a year to solve homicides for the Tampa Police Department.

But he may also have betrayed victims, divulging their identities for tax refund fraud, court records suggest.

About 4,600 individuals Houston checked out on state or national databases between 2010 and 2012 had fraudulent tax returns filed in their names, according to an affidavit. Of those, 21 people were involved in homicides or aggravated batteries investigated by Houston or his squad, the record states.

GTE Federal Credit Union records cited show cash ATM deposits to an account shared by Houston and his wife for $18,000 in 2011.

The details are the first public clues yet of what Tampa police Chief Jane Castor meant last month when she called Houston's alleged conduct "egregious." The longtime homicide detective, 53, was fired April 24.

Federal charges have not yet been filed. A federal grand jury investigation won't wrap up before Labor Day, according to a state court prosecutor.

The affidavit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by Tampa police Detective Sharla Canfield, who serves on an IRS-Criminal Investigation task force and sought a warrant to search an external hard drive of Houston's. Canfield wrote that there was probable cause to believe the drive contains evidence of conspiracy, identity theft, access device fraud and wire fraud.

Tampa police launched an internal affairs investigation of Houston in October after his wife, La Joyce Houston, was fired from her sergeant's position and arrested on charges of food stamp fraud and grand theft. The findings were turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa.

Police have remained tight-lipped in the face of the federal grand jury investigation of a veteran homicide detective whose work went into the prosecution of cop killer Dontae Morris, among others.

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