'Illegally' raffled Mission PD seized property to be 'returned'
Tue, 11 Jan 2011 05:11:15 GMT —
Less than a month after Mission city workers and police officers received thousands of dollars in seized property as gifts during holiday party door raffles, the Hidalgo County district attorney has recommended that everything be given back.
"My initial reaction was to contact city officials and say, 'hey you get that property back... He has no authority to dispose of the property in that way,'" Rene Guerra said.
Guerra is talking about Leo Longoria, the Mission police department's chief of police.
It's his actions that have been under harsh criticism.
Whistleblowers within the department, who spoke exclusively to Action 4 News last month, were first to speak out about the chief's "improper" actions.
"It sends the wrong message to all of us," said an officer who did not want to be identified. "It says to police officers.. seize now... cause later on it'll be ours.... we can keep it for ourselves."
The county's top prosecutor called the gift-giving "illegal" and the chief's actions ignorant" of the law.
"In this case... the chief used very poor judgment by not selling the property and giving that money for law enforcement purposes," Guerra said.
Chief Longoria claimed the property had gone "sour" and was deemed "abandoned" in accordance with the law.
Shortly after the parties in question the chief was asked by Action 4 News whether he considered the ethical implications of raffling out seized property to officers.
Ryan: "The question is chief: Was there a moral implication by giving seized items to officers who are the ones going into these homes?"
Leo: "To answer your question... I'm not sure... I don't want to stop being kind and I don't want to stop loving just because a few people believe that it would be inappropriate."
The district attorney's office was in contact with Mission's chief on Monday.
Later the same day, this statement was released to Action 4 News by Chief Leo Longoria:
"In light of the recent events that took place with regards to some gifts that were raffled out to City Employees, I want to express my sincere apologies for any misunderstandings on my intentions. We are currently retrieving those gifts that we can with the active participation from those whom received them."
Longoria will face no criminal charges.
But the district attorney gave a stern warning for future gift-givers who use seized property "illegally."
"That's not going to happen again... not in this county," Guerra said. "Next time this happens... there's going to be criminal repercussions."
The chief won't face charges because the district attorney said he never intended to or did financially gain from his actions.
Chief Longoria has said all along that his intentions were purely in the "spirit" of the holiday.
The mayor in Mission has expressed that he planned to use his own money to replace the gifts that must be turned in by city employees.