Ex-Lockhart police officer indicted on theft charge [Austin American-Statesman]
(Austin American-Statesman (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 08--Officials say a Lockhart police officer stole and accepted money from a man the department was investigating in connection with a gaming room before the officer resigned in August.
Richard Torres38, was indicted last month on charges of theft and two counts of gift to a public servant, a state jail felony and Class A misdemeanors, respectively.
Caldwell County District Attorney Trey Hicks said no court dates have been set but that he expects an arraignment this month.
Hicks said Torres was booked and released from the Caldwell County Jail on the same day last month. His bail was set at $15,000.
Jamie Balagia, the attorney representing Torres, said Torres plans to plead not guilty.
Torres resigned from the Police Department on Aug. 28, a day before Hicks told the American-Staesman the ex-officer was under investigation.
According to the Dec. 5 indictment, Torres illegally took at least $1,500 and less than $20,000 on or about March 22 and May 7 from Muhammad Weshahi without his permission. Torres also is accused of accepting money from Weshahi on those dates knowing that police were investigating him.
Officials did not say why they think Weshahi gave Torres money.
Hicks said Tuesday that Weshahi was the owner of one of four Lockhart businesses that officials suspected of housing an illegal gambling operation and that the Police Department raided in June. Hicks said he anticipates charging the business owners with gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor.
Officers issued misdemeanor citations to more than 100 people and seized thousands of dollars and 160 computers that police said were used for gambling.
Officials said the investigation leading up to the raid lasted two months, and Police Capt. John Roescher said Tuesday that Torres was among the officers that participated in both.
Roescher said the allegations against Torres do not taint the department's investigation.
"The Texas Rangers even came in and looked at that investigation and determined that there was nothing going on with it," he said.
Jimmy Schroeder, a ranger with the Texas Department of Public Safety responsible for investigating Torres last year, declined to comment on the case pending trial.
Balagia said he is still parsing the case against Torres. "I haven't been convinced that there's enough evidence to make this felony case against Richard," he said.
Balagia said Torres may consider continuing his career in law enforcement, and that he resigned because he didn't want to discredit or embarrass the Lockhart Police Department.
Torres was an investigator when he resigned, having served as a police officer for the department since September 2001, Roescher said. Prior to that he worked for the department for two years as a telecommunications operator, he said.
Torres is the second in his family to resign from the Police Department.
In February 2007, his brother, Ysidro Torres III, resigned his position as an officer amid an internal investigation into whether he had sexually harassed a Lockhart woman.
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