Judge orders documents released in TPD informant case

July 8, 2014 

Rita Girven has been charged, in state court, with food-stamp fraud and grand theft.

TAMPA -- A case plaguing the Tampa Police Department is taking a another turn after a judge's decision last week.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward has ordered a broad range of records be released linking an informant and several officers.

Normally, an informant's history with police is confidential under state law but in a new ruling says Tampa police must hand over documents concerning Rita Girven, who is at the center of a federal corruption investigation.

Girven was a Tampa police informant who investigators say loaned her food stamp card to Tampa police Sgt. LaJoyce Houston.

Girven, 31, may also have been receiving fraudulent tax returns on behalf of Houston's husband, TPD homicide detective Eric Houston. A federal investigation is now underway to determine if Houston was using police databases to steal identities.

LaJoyce and Eric Houston have known Girven for years and raised one of her children.

Girven and LaJoyce Houston have been charged, in state court, with food-stamp fraud and grand theft. Authorities say LaJoyce Houston illegally used Girven's food stamps to buy groceries. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Now, the court is demanding officer notes, records of payments and promises of special treatment and information about the officers that recruited Girven.

Prosecutors called the request for informant records a fishing expedition but defense attorneys say the records are needed for the court to understand the full scope of Girven's involvement with police and if she had any promises of immunity.

According to the partner newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, police and prosecutors say they are now working to release the documents to the court.

Attorneys say not all of the records may be available because some of them are tied up in federal court for Eric Houston's grand jury hearing.

Federal investigators say the grand jury will review the case against Eric Houston and may not decide on any criminal charges until later this fall.

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