Deputy Sheriff Charged as Toy-Drive Grinch

     LITCHFIELD, Minn. (CN) – State prosecutors brought a nine-count complaint on Thursday against a deputy sheriff they say stole toys from a Christmas toy drive and prescription drugs from a drug drop-off box.
     Like a funhouse Santa Clause, surveillance footage from the Meeker County Courthouse showed Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Sebring walking through the courthouse basement on Dec. 19, 2015, while on duty, carrying “two large, bulging garbage bags,” according to the complaint.
     “At that time, the basement level community room was filled with toys that were donated for a program that supports families who were in need of holiday assistance, by providing those families with toys during the Christmas season,” the complaint states. “The defendant placed the garbage bags in his department issued squad vehicle and eventually ended his shift and left with the garbage bags. The defendant was never authorized to take items from the Christmas toy drive.”
     Sebring, 33, of Grove City, admitted to the toy theft and other violations Tuesday night when investigators confronted him with the evidence, according to the complaint.
     The investigation of Sebring began two months earlier when the chief deputy caught Sebring, off-duty, rifling through the medication mailbox that the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office keeps in the lobby of its law enforcement center.
     Meeker maintains its “drug take back box” as a public service to let citizens drop off unused or unwanted medications or other controlled substances for proper, environmental disposal.
     After the chief deputy told Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze what he saw on Nov. 25, 2015, Cruze went over lobby surveillance tapes and saw Sebring had a “pattern” of going through the box, even while off duty, and extracting the plastic tote that contains the medications, according to the complaint.
     Cruze was allegedly watching the live lobby surveillance camera at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 when he saw an investigator carry to the box a plastic bag with Eddie Bauer’s logo on it.
     The bag, which the investigator placed in the box, contained 23 tablets of hydrocodone, according to the complaint.
     Sebring allegedly signed on for his shift a half hour later and had taken the Eddie Bauer bag out of the box by 9:29, along with other medication bottles.
     Prosecutors say a hidden camera in the stairwell showed Cruze going through the plastic bag and putting its contents, including the hydrocodone, in his pants pocket.
     Renville County investigators confronted Sebring at 10 p.m., got his statement, and soon executed a search warrant that found various stolen items at Sebring’s home, according to the complaint.
     The Eddie Bauer bag with the hydrocodone was allegedly in Sebring’s car
     Sebring made his initial appearance in court Thursday. The sheriff’s office says Sebring resigned from his position as deputy sheriff.

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