Former CCSO undersheriff charged with felony theft
John Stevens, the former undersheriff, has been charged with a count of felony theft in district court.
The charges stem from firearms purchased with county funds that Stevens took with him when he retired from the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
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Stevens was employed with CCSO for more than 20 years until he retired from the department on Jan. 12, 2018.
Beginning in August 2018, an agent with the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation was assigned to investigation allegations of theft occurring within CCSO.
According to court documents, Stevens was issued multiple firearms, including a Glock 27 40 S&W serial number HEY885; Rock River Arms LAR 15 rifle serial number CM55017; and a Glock 43 serial number BBYP075.
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The DCI agent confirmed these firearms were purchased with county funds and found records that the Glock 27 and River Arms LAR were purchased in July 2005. The Glock 43 was purchased in June 2016.
Each was purchased as part of a larger order of firearms for the department, according to the court documents.
Stevens facilitated the purchased for the Glock 27 while he was commander of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area or HIDTA.
In July 2006, Stevens signed a letter addressed to the gun wholesaler on CCSO letterhead, stating, in part, “Detective John Stevens is authorized to purchase a high-capacity firearm for official use only. I, hereby certify under penalty of perjury, the above-named law enforcement officer will use the requested firearm and/or large capacity ammunition feeding device for use in performing official duties and that the firearm is not being acquired for personal use or for purposes of transfer or resale,” according to the court documents.
Other Rock River Arms LAR 15 rifles were also purchased for HIDTA while Stevens was commander in July 2005.
When Stevens retired, he took three firearms with him that he was not authorized to take and no documentation was created to show he took them, according to the court documents. Stevens didn’t reimburse the county for the firearms either, according to the court documents.
Stevens told investigators that retired Sheriff Bob Edwards knew that Stevens left with the guns and according to court documents, Edwards told investigators that Stevens had expressed interest in keeping the weapons but would have to go through the proper channels to do so.
According to the documents, Edwards told investigators that Stevens had told him that wasn’t necessary.
Edwards told investigators that he wasn’t aware and didn’t authorize Stevens to take the firearms.
When Stevens retired, he was given a shotgun by the sheriff’s association. It was engraved, presented to him as a gift and the association reimbursed the county for the shotgun, according to the court documents.
In an interview with DCI investigators on Dec. 4, 2018, Stevens said he had the weapons at his residence. Later the same day the defendant turned some of the weapons into evidence.
According to court documents he was asked about the Glock 27 and the Rock River LAR 15 that weren’t returned with the others, Stevens told investigators that he had responded to a Craiglist ad in August 2018 and traded those for 2000 Artic Cat four-wheeler, which he had for personal use.
DCI agents located those two firearms and recovered them on Dec. 5, 2018.
The total value of the firearms and other items that Stevens allegedly took from CCSO is greater than $1,500 and less than $5,000.
According to the arrest warrant, Stevens’ bail was fixed at own recognizance.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said Stevens had been booked and released.
Slaughter and County Attorney Josh Racki thanked DCI and the Montana Attorney General’s office, which is prosecuting the case.
Slaughter said that another person may be charged in the near future in relation to this investigation.
Slaughter said Thursday that he’s reviewing policies and procedures to prevent these kinds of incidents from recurring.
“My responsibility is to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter said all other current employees had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Stevens had been the county disaster and emergency services coordinator since November 2017.
He’s been on administrative leave since December 2018 and CCSO Capt. Scott Van Dyken has been acting DES coordinator since December.