A Fairbanks police officer is facing charges of theft and official misconduct after a wallet turned in to him was returned to its owner with money missing from it, Fairbanks police said in a statement Monday.
Police said Manuel Beza, who had worked at the department for about a year and a half, resigned Friday.
A man found the missing wallet at Justa Store on Chena Pump Road on Nov. 23, police said. He tried to call the owner on her work phone number, which was inside the wallet, but didn’t get a response. While he was on his way to turn the wallet in to the police department, the man was involved in a car crash on University Avenue and Rewak Drive.
Beza responded to the crash and took the wallet, which contained a driver’s license, credit cards and about $120 in cash, among other items, police said.
After turning the wallet over to Beza, the man left a message for the owner to ensure she had received it from the police. She called him back saying she had, but that the cash was missing from it, police said. That’s when the man contacted police to file a complaint.
“The details of the incident were reviewed and there seemed to be no reasonable explanation for the cash to be missing so a criminal investigation was initiated,” the Fairbanks Police Department said in a statement Monday.
Beza initially denied taking any money out of the wallet, saying there no money in it when he received it, police said. However, he later admitted to stealing between $60 and $80 in cash, according to the police department’s statement.
Beza was placed on administrative leave but resigned before the investigation concluded. “The case was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office and has been forwarded to the State of Alaska Office of Special (Prosecutions),” police said.
The department said Beza was an officer in the patrol division and had no prior law enforcement experience prior to being hired with Fairbanks police in July 2017.