SPANISH FORK — A former forensic technician with the Utah County Sheriff's Office was charged Friday with stealing drugs that were supposed to be destroyed.
Brian William Smith, 38, of Lehi, is charged in 4th District Court with three counts of possession of hydrocodone or Oxycontin, a class A misdemeanor, and three counts of theft, a class B misdemeanor.
The office has about 34,000 pieces of evidence that it has collected and stored from its investigations, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. In cases where drugs are seized, once that corresponding court case is adjudicated, the drugs are typically placed in a barrel and burned, he said.
In February, a forensics unit employee "discovered some drugs were missing from the drug disposal barrel," according to a statement from the sheriff's office. Cannon said Friday he did not know what caused the employee to check the evidence barrel and take inventory prior to it being burned.
"After viewing surveillance video, these employees learned that the drugs were taken by another employee, a forensic technician," according to the statement.
The sheriff's office launched an internal investigation and the Spanish Fork Police Department was called to conduct an independent criminal investigation.
Smith resigned on Feb. 28, a few days after he was confronted with the allegations, Cannon said.
After it was discovered that Smith was allegedly taking evidence, a full audit was conducted of all evidence. It was determined that Smith had access to 17 cases, Cannon said. Of those, it was determined that prescription medication was missing from 12 of those cases.
"(Smith) took bottles of prescription pills which had been turned into the sheriff's office by individuals for destruction. (He) took the bottles of pills after work hours on days that he did not actually work," according to charging documents.
An evidence technician is not a position requiring law enforcement certification by the state. Smith used to be a deputy in the Utah County Jail, but moved to the forensic unit about three or four years ago and was not certified by Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training at the time he resigned, the sergeant said.
Only one of the 12 cases with missing prescription meds has yet to be resolved in court, so that case could be affected by Smith's actions, according to Cannon.Comment on this story
Earlier this month, the Utah State Auditor's Office released a report that concluded Utah law enforcement agencies need to do a better job keeping track of the mountain of evidence they collect and store each year. One of the audit's main points was more supervision is needed over the disposal of evidence.
Cannon said the Utah County Sheriff's Office was not part of that audit and it is already doing most of what the audit recommended. However, he said more surveillance cameras are being added to areas where evidence could potentially be taken.