Two deputies with the Dallas County Sheriff's Office have been arrested, accused of looting a tornado-ravaged Home Depot store and returning the merchandise for credit used to then make purchases, the sheriff's department says.
"(The tip) actually came from the Home Depot corporate office, who contacted us and said we had an employee who was possibly involved in some thefts," said Raul Reyna, with the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff's department announced the arrest of 25-year-old Deputy Joseph Bobadilla Thursday morning and later that afternoon announced the arrest of 41-year-old Sgt. Rebecca Evans.
Both deputies were booked on a charge of theft of property, enhanced, between $750 and $2,500. Bobadilla was released Thursday after posting $500 bond; Evans was released shortly after on $500 bond. It is not clear if either have obtained an attorney.
According to the DSO, Deputy Joseph Bobadilla was hired to work off-duty security guarding the store on Forest Lane that was damaged during a tornado outbreak on Oct. 20. It is not yet clear what role Evans, Bobadilla's sergeant, played in the scheme.
Bobadilla was detained and being interrogated by detectives in the criminal investigative division Thursday. While he was being questioned Thursday morning officials with the sheriff's department were searching his Garland home. From Texas Sky Ranger, sheriff's deputies were seen removing at least two appliances, still in boxes, and loading them onto a truck.
"The sheriff's department is not going to tolerate anybody involved in breaking the law, so he is going to be held accountable for his actions," Reyna said.
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The investigation began after the The Home Depot corporate office reached out to the DSO to inform them a deputy was believed to be involved in the theft of merchandise and that he was believed to have returned the stolen items to another store for in-store credit.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by NBC 5, on Oct. 31 Bobadilla, working as an off-duty security guard at the damaged store, asked Home Depot officials if cameras at the store were working and asked about potential items that could be taken from the store.
The affidavit said on Nov. 1, Bobadilla was recorded on surveillance video at the Wheatland Road store, in full uniform, returning a box of wet, new, unopened merchandise. With no reciept, he signed for a store credit of $753.98. On Nov. 7 he went back to the Wheatland store, again in full uniform, and returned more wet, unopened merchandise and signed for a credit of $454.46. Some of the merchandise was marked "Store 6503," the store damaged by the tornado.
On Nov. 8, Bobandilla went with a woman, identified in the affidavit as Veronica Palacio, a current or former Dallas County employee, to the store on Elam Road and each attempted to return $535.10 worth of items. Both attempts at making the return were rejected and the pair left the store with the items.
According to the arrest affidavit, on Nov. 11, Bobadilla and Palacio purchased a washer, dryer and microwave on store credit. The washer and dryer were to be delivered to his residence while the microwave was to be delivered to her residence.
According to Home Depot officials, the amount of merchandise "appropriated" totaled $2,398.57. The location of the stolen items unsuccessfully returned, worth $535.10, remains unknown.
When Bobadilla was interviewed by detectives Thursday, he implicated Evans in the thefts and said while working security at the store she entered the store multiple times on different days and that she used her mobile phone to take photographs of the items she stole and then sent him those photos. Bobadilla told investigators he deleted all the messages. He added that Evans took the items she stole to her home but later brought them to the duty station for him to return for credit. Bobadilla said he paid Evans $750 in cash for her cut of the profit.
Evans, who, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, was interviewed that afternoon and waived her rights. She told investigators the thefts were Bobadilla's idea and that he told her what to take and that she entering the store three times and concealing items under her shirt. She also admitted to taking photos of the items and accepting payments of $250 and $500 from Bobadilla for the stolen merchandise.
"The Dallas Sheriff's Office does not condone or support employees that break the law. Our core values are integrity, professionalism and accountability and as a result, we will follow the proper procedures and guidelines in place to uphold the law and ensure the deputy is held responsible for his actions," said Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown in a prepared statement.
Bobadilla appeared before internal affairs investigators on Friday and was officially placed on administrative leave. In the coming days, similar action will likely face Evans. Both face possible termination as their criminal cases move forward.
The investigation is still active and on-going.
Looting from the October tornado outbreak remains an ever-present problem. Earlier this month Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said he will seek enhanced penalties for anyone caught looting in the tornado-damaged areas of Dallas County. The DAs office said they're using using a new law that went into effect on Sept. 1 that seeks harsher punishment for crimes, like burglary, assaults, and robberies, committed in disaster areas.
The charges leveled against Bobandilla and Evans are of the "enhanced" variety.
A burglary of a building normally carries a range of punishment between 180 days and two years confinement. However, under the new enhancement rule, a burglary of a building committed in a disaster zone can be punished between two and 10 years in prison.
Hired as a civilian jailer in July 2014, Bobadilla was promoted to deputy sheriff, a sworn position, in October 2016. He is currently assigned to the traffic division.
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NBC 5's Don Peritz and Jack Highberger contributed to this report.