A former sheriff's deputy reportedly caught in a sting operation was ordered to stand trial Monday on five charges related to the theft of money from three people.
Samuel Gene Priest, 28, will be tried on felony counts of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds after a department investigator testified that Priest accepted a lost wallet and did not report the recovered item.
The sting was set up after two citizens complained that Priest had stolen money from them one year ago, Deputy Dist. Atty. Craig Rooten said.
Sheriff's Sgt. Jenene Milakovick testified that an undercover officer flagged down Priest while he was on patrol in Vista on June 9. Explaining that she was a motorist on her way to Santa Barbara, the officer handed over a wallet containing $371, the sergeant testified.
Milakovick testified that Priest, heard over a transmitter worn by the undercover officer, accepted the wallet, but did not ask for her name or details about where the wallet was found.
Priest was arrested June 11 after the wallet was found in his locker at the Vista station.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney James M. Gattey, Milakovick said Priest voluntarily turned over the wallet and none of the money was missing, even though he had only $11 in his pocket when taken into custody.
Gattey pressed Milakovick on Sheriff's Department policy, and the sergeant said she could not point to any policy that requires an officer to obtain a person's name and address when receiving lost property.
Milakovick also testified that policy required Priest to complete a report on the recovered item, but she said that when he was arrested he had not completed a report on a shooting that had occurred hours after the sting was conducted.
Gattey asked her about Priest's attempt to obtain permission to complete paperwork during his shift. Milakovick said she had no evidence that he had asked permission.
Municipal Judge Judith F. Hayes said Priest could remain free on his own recognizance, but ordered him to appear in Superior Court on Nov. 16, when a trial date will be set.