HOUSTON (CN) – Two Harris County police officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rare comics they were supposed to inventory for an embezzlement case, the comics’ owner claims in court.
Crane manufacturer Tadano America Corp. sued Harris County and its District Attorney’s Office on Dec. 18 in Harris County Court.
Anthony Chiofalo was Tadano’s head of legal affairs and human resources until May 2012, when prosecutors charged him with embezzling $8.9 million from the company, according to the lawsuit.
“Chiofalo used his ill-gotten funds from the billing scheme to purchase many luxury and collectable items, some of which were kept at either his residences or in rented storage units,” the complaint states.
Chiofalo went on the lam and the Harris County DA’s Office assigned investigators Lonnie Blevins and Dustin Deutsch to the case, according to the complaint.
The detectives were supposed to safeguard the loot seized from Chiofalo “so that it could be properly inventoried, accounted for, recorded and memorialized to document the underlying criminal activity, used as evidence and ultimately restored to TAC,” the complaint states.
Tadano America sued Chiofalo in December 2012 and obtained an $8.9 million judgment against him that gave it rights to any property he bought with the filched funds, including the comics.
Harris County put all the goodies it seized from Chiofalo in storage units and inventoried the items, but the inventory process was not exactly airtight, Tadano America says.
“Defendants failed to notice that their employees removed several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of highly collectible comic books from the DA storage units without detection for several months,” the complaint states.
After Blevins sold the comics at cut rates at a Chicago convention the FBI began investigating him. Blevins was arrested in February 2013. He pleaded guilty to stealing some of the comics in May this year, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A Harris County grand jury indicted Deutsche on Nov. 25 this year on charges he stole more than $200,000 in comics from the Chiofalo inventory, according to Tadano’s recent complaint.
Tadano America seeks damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent concealment.
It is represented by Philip Hilder of Houston.
The Harris County DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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