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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Monroe County sheriff says staff not tied to theft case

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

A day after a federal Homeland Security employee was accused of stealing more than $200,000 from immigration detainees being held at the Monroe County jail, the county's sheriff said his department was not involved in the investigation.

"The investigation centered on immigration and nationalization employees. No sheriff's employees were or are suspected of any wrongdoing," Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield said.

The employee, Patrick Wynne of Monroe, was accused of thefts that took place over a four-year period beginning in 2000 while he worked for the federal government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement section.

In 1999, the county built a 160-bed jail on East Dunbar Road, with funding aided by a grant from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. One wing of the jail, which includes 80 beds, is for immigration detainees.

Mr. Wynne worked there as an enforcement agent and property officer.

The investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit began after detained immigrants began complaining that they could not get their property back after they were released from the county's jail.

Sheriff Crutchfield said his office has a program in place to help prevent such actions. "I've been here eight years, and the policies and procedures were in place when I [arrived]. I'm satisfied with what we have," he said.

Sheriff Crutchfield said the contractual arrangement between Homeland Security and the county will continue as before. "It generates a lot of income for the county," he said.

Last year, the county was paid $2.3 million for holding the detainees in its jail; 69 were in custody there last night, the sheriff said. He said a new employee has taken the place of Mr. Wynne, who could not be reached for comment.



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