Juan Manuel Rodriguez, a former Orange County probation officer, was convicted on Thursday of stealing money while helping to serve search warrants by an Orange County Superior Court jury.
The charges included one felony count of grand theft and one misdemeanor count of petty theft. Rodriguez was found not guilty of a second misdemeanor count of petty theft.
Rodriguez was a deputy Orange County probation officer and was serving as a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Tactical Apprehension Team, which serves search warrants, arrest warrants and makes contact with criminals on probation.
Rodriguez was accused by two men of stealing hundreds of dollars from their wallets after a visit on August 8, 2017 to a home in Santa Ana.
Rodriguez got caught when an OC Sheriff’s deputy set up a sting involving a “bait vehicle” that had $1,200 in cash inside of it. Some of that cash was in plain view while some was hidden in compartments. The bait vehicle was then parked near another Santa Ana home where the team was carrying out another unrelated search.
A deputy then asked Rodriguez to search the bait car for evidence. Rodriguez allegedly kept $1,190 in cash from the bait car and told the other officers that he had only found “a couple dollar bills and some Del Taco trash.”
To make matters worse for Rodriguez the $1,190 from the bait car was found by other investigators in Rodriguez’s wallet, along with some Disney and Walmart gift cards that he was accused of stealing from someone who lived at the home the team had been searching.
The two men who complained that their money was stolen later identified Rodriguez out of a photo lineup as the theft suspect
While the jury found Rodriguez guilty of the grand theft count tied to the money in the bait car and the petty theft count tied to the gift cards they did not find him guilty of the petty theft count regarding the alleged theft of cash from the residents during the first search.
Rodriguez’s defense attorney, John Barnett, hilariously claimed that Rodriguez was pulling a prank on his team leader and planned to turn the money in later. The jury did not buy that argument!
Rodriguez apparently no longer works for the probation department. His actions cost him an annual salary of $115K that totaled $179K with benefits.