PHOENIX — A former Arizona liquor department detective is now on the Brady list after he was accused of being dishonest about a stripper’s sex crime allegations against him.
The stripper reported to Scottsdale Police that Det. Mike Sanchez inappropriately touched her during an undercover sting at Skin Cabaret last October. At the time, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control was investigating complaints of COVID-19 health violations at bars and restaurants. However, Sanchez told internal affairs investigators he was also looking for prostitution violations inside Skin’s VIP room.
Internal investigators said Sanchez altered reports, which would be evidence in the criminal case, and Sanchez was dishonest during questioning. He resigned in April along with DLLC Director John Cocca and Deputy Director Mike Rosenberger.
Monday, the ABC15 investigators obtained a four-hour video recording of an internal affairs interview with Sanchez, as well as audio-recorded interviews with witnesses. An 800-page internal affairs report was released late last week, in response to an ABC15 public records request.
The video showed heated exchanges during the internal affairs questioning. Investigators said Sanchez was “beating around the bush” and changing his story.
“Just [be]cause you don't like it doesn't make it dishonesty,” Sanchez said at one point.
“It’s not whether I like it. I am not getting answers,” replied DPS Sgt. Todd Pattee, one of the internal affairs investigators.
Sanchez wrote at least three versions of what happened in official reports during a four-day period.
First, on Skin’s liquor license suspension order, Sanchez wrote a stripper "allowed the Detective to touch her buttocks" and "allowed the Detective to touch her bare breasts."
A day later, on October 26, Sanchez submitted a DLLC investigative report to his bosses with the same wording.
“I used the word ‘allowed,’” Sanchez said, “because [of] the lack of non-consent on her part and all the little shows that - all the little side antics that happened.”
Initially, DLLC staff did not turn over this version of the report, but internal investigators said they were able to recover it from deleted DLLC emails. They confronted Sanchez about this report in the video-recorded interview from March.
Sanchez took out the word "allowed" when he rewrote his DLLC investigative report on October 28. At that point, he was already on administrative leave, and he knew criminal and internal investigations are underway.
In that third, altered version, Sanchez wrote he only touched the stripper "in an attempt to keep her buttocks away from my face," and he wrote he put his "hands on top of her breasts to prevent her from moving in again."
Internal affairs investigators questioned Sanchez about the appropriateness of making changes to his report when it would clearly be evidence in the criminal investigation against him.
“You’ve been a cop for a long time, right?” DPS Sgt. Jeffery Webb asked.
“Yes,” Sanchez replied.
“So, when an officer is accused of criminal wrongdoing or the subject of the investigation, would we let them manipulate evidence?” Webb asked.
“Uh, no,” Sanchez said.
“The clear answer is no,” Webb said.
Internal affairs investigators then questioned Sanchez whether then-Director Cocca or then-Deputy Director Rosenberger coached or influenced him specifically on report change. Sanchez denied that, adding he was only asked to clean up and expand the report.
“I want the best product,” Sanchez said to investigators. “I was there. I get to memorialize my report, and that's what I chose.”
Rosenberger, however, told internal affairs investigators he knew Sanchez’s use of the word "allowed" was a key issue in the Scottsdale police investigation, and Rosenberger admitted to discussing that point with Sanchez before the DLLC investigative report was altered on October 28.
The internal affairs investigators also found Cocca, Rosenberger, and Sanchez discussed the details of the Skin Cabaret case with each other despite being specifically admonished not to discuss the investigation.
Glendale Community College Justice Studies Prof. Jeff Hynes, a retired Phoenix Police commander, told ABC15 that undercover investigations, especially vice cases, typically are carefully planned and recorded to protect the officers from the kind of allegations levied against Sanchez.
The DLLC internal affairs investigation uncovered disagreements about the goal of the Skin Cabaret sting, no departmental policy about undercover operations, and the inexperience of the officers involved.
“That opens so many cans of worms, Hynes said. “This is why investigations have to be pristine, absolute, down the line. You do not compromise.”
Hynes indicated there could be consequences for the state liquor department, as a result of the dishonest allegations and the inappropriate discussions about the case.
“It questions your integrity on the standpoint of your past investigations,” Hynes said. “Are they all pure, or do we now need to go back and check the investigations that you've done in the past that these officers have been part of?”
Former Det. Sanchez was not criminally charged by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. However, MCAO did place him on the Brady list, which means defense attorneys in future cases would get a record of his alleged dishonesty.