PHOENIX - Officials say a Phoenix police officer recently found shot to death in central Phoenix had been part of a fraud investigation involving off-duty security work.
Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris said Sgt. Sean Drenth would have been referred to a grand jury and could have been indicted if he had still been alive.
"Sgt. Sean Drenth was part of the investigation ... he would have met the A.G.'s Office criteria for grand jury consideration," Harris said.
Drenth was found shot and killed with his own weapon near the Arizona State Capitol on October 18.
Investigators were made aware of Drenth’s connection to the off-duty work about a week after his death.
An investigation into the death is still underway and no arrests have been made.
Harris said investigators are looking at every possibility.
Earlier Thursday, Attorney General Terry Goddard announced the indictment of three Phoenix police officers and a former member of the Phoenix Police Department on felony charges as part of the investigation.
The case is related to money they received for off-duty security work they allegedly did not perform, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Harris said he has suspended 25 other employees from off-duty work.
They have not been indicted but will face internal review by Phoenix police.
Arraignments for the indicted officers is set for December 1st.
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Harris said he has also asked the City Auditor’s Office to review the entire department’s off-duty work policy.
Former Phoenix police Officer George Emil Contreras, 45, was indicted on four felony counts including fraud, illegal control of an enterprise and theft for actions he took during his employment with the department performing off-duty work for multiple clients.
The three Phoenix police officers also indicted are 35-year-old Sgt. Benjamin Hugh Sywarungsymun, 40-year-old Officer Steven Paul Peck, and 30-year-old Officer Aaron J. Lentz.
The investigation stems from an internal police department review started in late 2007, according to Phoenix police.
ABC15 contacted Contreras by phone on Thursday, but Contreras would not confirm any indictments, saying he's "not talking about it."
The allegations involve off-duty security services provided at the Cotton Center Town Homes on East Broadway in Phoenix, according to Phoenix Law Enforcement Association spokesperson Ken Crane.
"An indictment is just an allegation," said Mark Spencer, President of PLEA. "It is not a conviction, but it is very serious."
While it is common for police officers to moonlight as off-duty security, sources say the internal investigation and Attorney General’s review focus on the manner in which payments for off-duty security work were handled, the amount of hours worked and whether payment was made for work not done.
Contreras co-coordinated off-duty security work at Cotton Center, Crane said.
Contreras, who resigned in 2008, was in charge of dispersing payments to officers who worked the security detail, Crane said.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon released this statement Thursday afternoon:
While the news released today by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office saddens me, I ask everyone – City employees, the media, and citizens alike – to withhold judgment until this case is completed. Speculation serves no one. Nor does painting our entire police force in broad strokes because of allegations against a few.
I stand by what I have said throughout my seven years as Mayor: We have the best police force in America. They’ve led the way in ensuring that today Phoenix has the lowest crime rate at any time in the past 20 years. And it was the Phoenix Police Department that referred this case to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, to ensure a comprehensive, objective investigation.
Let me also say a few words about the South Mountain Precinct. Again, I hope none of us makes the mistake of allowing allegations against a few to taint the hundreds of great police officers. Anyone police officer that breaks our laws will be investigated prosecuted and dealt with accordingly, just as we will continue to do everything possible to support the great police officers who risk their lives – to keep our neighborhoods safe.