TAMPA — A former Tampa police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing evidence from tax fraud cases and cashing the checks herself.
Jeanette Hevel, who worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of theft of government property, which could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
After formally entering her plea, a federal magistrate released her on a $25,000 bond.
Hevel, 47, worked as a corporal in the Tampa Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau and was responsible for reviewing and assigning reports, including tax fraud and identity theft cases, to other officers for investigation, according to the plea agreement.
Beginning in September 2011 and continuing through May 2012, Hevel “abused her position and authority” and took seized tax refund checks and cashed them herself, her plea agreement says.
She accessed the department’s electronic records system, Versadex, which cataloged the refund checks and money orders that had been put in the department’s secure evidence storage, and also cashed checks seized by other detectives and sent to her for investigation.
In total, Hevel stole and cashed 13 U.S. Treasury checks worth more than $88,000 over a nine-month period, according to the plea. She split the proceeds with other unnamed scheme participants.
She also cashed 21 money orders worth $10,000 and a $3,000 refund anticipation loan check in her custody in the police department.
Tampa police fired Hevel in September 2013.
A judge will sentence her within the next few months. Her lawyer, Mark O’Brien, said the fact she was a police officer could have both a positive and negative effect on the judge’s decision.
One the one hand, she will get a “special increase” in the sentencing because of how she abused public trust by commiting the crime while working as a police officer. At the same time, O’Brien said, her work as a public servant could work in her favor.
“It hopefully will positively affect her because of all the good deeds she once did,” he said.