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Stolen Watercraft Lands Policeman in Hot Water

May 17, 2003|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A longtime Newport Beach police sergeant has been convicted of stealing a $4,100 personal watercraft he purchased for the department's Explorer Scouts during an excursion to Lake Shasta.

Trent R. Harris pleaded no contest this month to two counts of misappropriating public funds and false reporting, charges that were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

He was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to return the watercraft, perform 200 hours of community service and pay an estimated $1,200 in taxes and penalties for underreporting the price he paid for the watercraft to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"He bought the jet ski with city funds for the Explorers. But it was never really for the Explorers," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Ray Armstrong.

Harris, 46, signed the plea agreement May 8. That same day, he took an early medical retirement as a result of unrelated workers' compensation claims that preceded the criminal case against him, thus ending his 25-year career with the department.

The case dates to a May 1999 trip to Lake Shasta that Harris took with a group of Explorers. He filled out an expense report listing the $4,100 watercraft he bought for the occasion, and later reported that he had sold it. But Newport Beach police could not find a record of any related deposit back into the Explorer account.

Investigators found the watercraft stored at Harris' home in Huntington Beach. They also determined that he had lied about the amount he paid for it on a DMV registration form, listing the amount as about half of what he actually was charged.

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