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Badges, details missing

Most O.C. sheriff's special reserves didn't provide details on missing shields and IDs, records show.

August 21, 2008|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

Only seven of the 42 Orange County sheriff's special reserves whose badges and ID cards were reported lost or stolen could provide specifics on when and where their credentials disappeared, while most of the others gave the department no explanation.

The special reserves who filed lost and stolen property reports with the department recalled last seeing their badges at locations that included south Orange County restaurants, a hair salon, Dana Point Harbor and Hawaii.

The reports, released Wednesday by sheriff's officials under a public records request by The Times, show that the department learned about many of the misplaced badges only as it sought to exchange older versions of the shields for newer ones that are less like those carried by sworn deputies.

Newly appointed Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is recalling all badges from the 400 or so members of the Professional Service Responders program. She has emphasized that she values the time and resources contributed by the majority of special reserves -- largely made up of business professionals -- but that she needs to cleanse the volunteer program of cronyism associated with her predecessor, Michael S. Carona, who resigned in January and is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges.

To date, 197 badges have been returned, according to Sheriff's Lt. Thomas Slayton. Mailers will be sent out this week reminding the rest of the volunteers to return their badges and IDs, he said. Uniformed deputies will visit the homes and offices of those who don't respond. If the credentials are still not returned, a lost property report will be filed, Slayton said.

The list of Carona allies whose credentials have disappeared includes his chief political and legal advisor, Michael Schroeder, who reported losing two badges.

According to sheriff's records, Schroeder lost his first one in January 2002 when he was at the Vogue Salon in Newport Beach. While he was getting his hair cut, he left his coat in a closet with his badge wallet, driver's license and concealed weapons permit in a pocket, records show.

Schroeder told investigators that he searched for the missing wallet with the help of salon owner Donato Biancini, but couldn't find it.

Schroeder was issued a second badge and last year lost that one too. At the time, he reported that he did not know when and where he last saw it, records show. He was not issued a third badge.

Others who did not know what happened to their badges include developer Michael Harrah, father-son hotel developers Hadi and Paul Makarechian, and Jeff Teller, operator of the swap meet at the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

Those four special reserves were contacted as the Sheriff's Department sought to exchange badges and were not issued replacements after reporting that their badges were missing. All four men are still on the active reserve roster.

Lost property reports with more details show that one badge was lost at Hennessey's Tavern in Laguna Beach in April 2004 and another badge was lost at the Alley restaurant in Newport Beach. A retired reserve reported losing her badge while vacationing in Maui, Hawaii.

The Sheriff's Department has said that any special reserves caught using their credentials after reporting them lost or stolen would be arrested and charged with filing false police reports and being in possession of stolen property. The lost badges' numbers and reserves' names have been entered into a database and will be flagged for investigation if the credentials are used by anyone.

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

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