Crime

Former detective arrested. Investigators say he stole money from Manatee sheriff’s office

A former undercover detective with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested after investigators say they found he had stolen $2,800 from the sheriff’s office,.

The sheriff’s office fired Christopher J. Gallagher, 31, on Aug. 28, the day officials began the investigation, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Officials said in the news release that since November 2017, Gallagher had defrauded the sheriff’s office of a total of $2,800 in 33 separate incidents.

Gallagher, who had worked for the sheriff’s office since 2008, was an undercover narcotics detective assigned to the Special Investigations Division.

“Gallagher has disgraced the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and betrayed the trust of our employees and the public. Now, he will face the consequences of his actions,” Sheriff Rick Wells said in a statement.

The investigation started after Gallagher’s supervisors noticed a “suspicious use” of an investigative funds receipt in connection with an alleged drug purchase for $60.

The warrant for Gallagher’s arrest, provided by the sheriff’s office, states Gallagher was given a $500 advance from the Investigative and Evidence Fund to help him in his investigations — which included buying illegal drugs and paying confidential informants, with a “mission to arrest and prosecute criminals.”

A record of the funds must be kept and documented on a Use of Investigative Funds receipt and Expenditure of Informant funds form. The forms are then submitted for reimbursement in order to replenish the detective’s $500 balance, according to the warrant.

However, Gallagher “fabricated fictitious narratives” on the receipts, forged required witness deputies’ signatures on the expenditure forms and falsified documents that investigators say allowed him to pocket the money while still following department policy and hide his actions, according to the warrant.

On Aug. 28, Gallagher was confronted by his superiors about what officials called a “suspicious use” of the receipt and form that recorded a $60 drug purchase, the warrant showed.

In an interview described in the warrant, Gallagher reportedly confessed to falsifying the drug transaction and pocketing the $60, according to court documents. He also said there were “five or six times” he fabricated a receipt with a case agency number in order to take money from the investigation fund.

Documents show Gallagher acknowledged incident reports without drug evidence were indicative of times he stole money.

Gallagher told investigators he took the money because he was in “financial duress,” but intended to replenish the stolen money.

In a later interview noted in the warrant, Gallagher admitted to fabricating two receipts, forging a detective’s signature on two other forms and forging a confidential informant’s signature.

In all 33 incidents investigators discovered in an audit, Gallagher did not submit drugs as evidence for the receipt date or complete a Property and Evidence receipt for the drugs, nor was there an entry in the Property and Evidence log books, according to the warrant.

Gallagher was arrested Wednesday and faces charges of official misconduct and scheme to defraud.

Investigators report they do not have any evidence that other sheriff’s office employees were involved in the incidents. They believe Gallagher acted alone.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said he can’t say if Gallagher’s arrest and the investigation will have any impact on the investigations he was involved with while working as a detective.

“It’s impossible to say, you have to anticipate that that’s going to happen but until it does, we won’t know,” Bristow said.

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