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Ex-cop gets 33 months for stealing $454K

Richard Garcia, former South Tucson lieutenant

Richard R. Garcia

Richard R. Garcia

U.S. District Judge David C. Bury sentenced former South Tucson police lieutenant Richard R. Garcia on Friday to 33 months in a federal prison followed by three years on probation for stealing $454,963.

Garcia, 47, pleaded guilty in January to stealing the money from agencies that receive federal funds.

The money, intended for the city of South Tucson and the Pima County Anti-Racketeering Fund, was stolen from the city’s evidence room and a city bank account between 2004 and 2008.

“You used the money for alcohol, gambling and at strip joints,” said Bury. “You’re a law enforcement officer and you stole a lot of money and you stole it from your own.”

Bury said law officers may not be paid well but they are held to a different standard.

“When they pick up contraband, they don’t stick it in their pocket.”

A somber Garcia, speaking softly, told the judge, “I’ve let down everybody in this community and my family. I’m sorry.”

Garcia was allowed to remain out of custody until May 4 when he must report to a federal prison or the U.S. marshal here to begin serving his sentence.

At the sentencing hearing, Garcia’s attorney, Alfred S. Donau III, cited his client’s apparent “dual personality,” which permitted him to serve his community well as a law enforcement officer but caused him to take money that wasn’t his.

Before passing sentence, Bury said he “frankly was angry when I read about the offense. This case will define your law enforcement career,” he told Garcia. “The good work that you did will be tarnished. You will be slapped with a judgment for the rest of your life.

“I don’t think this was a mistake in judgment. It was a course of conduct over four or five years,” the judge said.

Garcia went to work for the South Tucson Police Department in 1995 and was fired on June 12, 2008 for “misappropriation of government funds.”

He had worked his way up the ranks from officer to lieutenant.

In January, Garcia was accused of filing false tax returns and of theft from an organization receiving federal funds.

He made a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that was submitted to the court on April 9.

It notes his 2002 DUI conviction when he was arrested while driving a city vehicle.

As part of the sentence, Bury ordered Garcia to begin paying $200 a month in restitution once he completes his prison term.

Most of the restitution would be paid to South Tucson. About $30,000 would go to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.

Garcia also will face three years of supervised probation after his prison term, Bury said.

Garcia could be released early if he volunteers for 500 hours of addiction treatment in prison.

Bury also ordered Garcia to file amended tax returns for 2004-2007.

South Tucson City Manager Enrique G. Serna, who attended Garcia’s sentencing, as did members of Garcia’s family, said the judge showed compassion in sentencing Garcia to less than three years in prison.

Garcia faced a possible maximum sentence of 10 years for stealing the nearly $500,000 and a maximum of three years for the income tax crime.

Serna said after the sentencing that “with each passing day, we realize the financial impact and the horror that (the case) has placed on our police department and all police departments in general. How unfair is that? You can’t put a value on that.”

South Tucson employees have to take “major salary cutbacks” because of a city budget deficit. The money Garcia stole could have offset some of the budget shortfall, Serna said.

In Serna’s letter to the court, he said the plea deal gives South Tucson “no reasonable expectation that the city will every receive any portion of our losses.”

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