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Former Columbus, Ohio officer pleads guilty in surplus-theft case

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An investigation into the mishandling of military surplus donated to the Columbus Police Division continued yesterday, even as a former officer pleaded guilty to stealing equipment.

Steven E. Dean, 49, said “yes” when asked in U.S. District Court if he took government property valued at $251,571 when he was head of the division’s surplus program.

Investigators found that he stole vehicles — and gave some to friends — as well as equipment that he sold on Craigslist and other items that he sold for scrap.

He was caught after Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs discovered irregularities in the program and officers began an investigation in 2012. Dean, a police veteran of more than 20 years, was placed on paid leave and retired on Nov. 1, 2012.

The investigation was transferred to the FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, part of the Department of Defense.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas W. Squires said the investigation is ongoing. At least one other police officer and a city maintenance worker have been named in court documents. The janitor told agents that he scrapped some of the surplus equipment for $94,173, kept $30,000 and gave the rest to Dean. Court documents say that between Oct. 1, 2005, and June 1, 2012, Dean stole motorized construction equipment and vehicles, restaurant equipment, scrap metal, generators and other materials. Some of it he stored on friends’ property.

Squires said the government expects to recover about $100,000 worth of the equipment. The amount Dean will be ordered to pay in forfeiture will depend on how much is recovered, Squires said.

Columbus police have received $9.4 million worth of equipment through the program, which allows the Department of Defense to transfer unneeded property, including guns, clothes, vehicles and computers, to law-enforcement agencies.

Dean pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling and one count of stealing federal property. He will remain in jail until he is sentenced. Each count carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

He has been in jail since November, when he was charged with threatening his then-attorney, Mark Collins. Under the plea agreement, those charges would be dropped.

A sentencing date has not been set.

kgray@dispatch.com
 

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