A 7 1/2-year employee of the Tempe Police Department has pleaded guilty to stealing items on police property, officers said.
Aaron Smith made his plea in Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday morning and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7.
Smith resigned from the force last year after he was booked on multiple charges, including theft, burglary and tampering with physical evidence.
Police employees in early July of 2012 began reporting to supervisors that various items of police property were missing, such as two Tempe police bicycles, a police equipment case containing a GPS and money from two separate locations.
On July 20, 2012, detectives discovered that forced entry was made into a small lock box that contained petty cash and about $750 was missing.
As the investigation progressed, detectives discovered Smith had access to the areas where the missing property was secured and his shifts coincided with the times of the thefts and burglaries, police said. While Smith had access to the general areas, in most cases, forced entry was made to get to and remove the items, said Lt. Mike Horn.
On July 26, 2012, investigators had an undercover detective turn over a purse containing $142 to Smith while he was on duty and told him it was found property, Horn said. At the conclusion of Smith's workweek Saturday morning, he had not taken any steps to impound or process the money or purse as found property, Horn said.
Smith was taken into custody without incident near Dobson and Southern. Tempe detectives served search warrants at Smith's residence, on his vehicles and at his work place locker.
The stolen police bicycles were recovered at Smith's residence, as was the purse which was now missing the money, Horn said. One of the dollar bills was recovered in Smith's personal wallet, Horn said.
In a post-arrest interview, Smith admitted his actions stemmed from extreme financial hardship. He gave the bicycles to his children as gifts and told detectives he threw away the GPS after opening the case it was in, Horn said.
The total amount of money taken during the incidents was $1,006.
Smith had worked as a patrol officer throughout his 7 1/2 years of employment and was assigned to a swing shift, Horn said.
Investigators believe Smith acted alone, Horn said.
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