Juan Manuel Rodriguez was assigned to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department tactical team when he was accused of the thefts in August of 2017.
While serving a search warrant in 2017, a target of the warrant told investigators he was missing $150 to $200 from his wallet, prosecutors said in a trial brief. The man said when he was asked for his ID he pointed to his wallet, but later he noticed the money was missing, prosecutors said.
The next day, when authorities were collecting evidence regarding another suspect, he said he was also missing $600, prosecutors said.
That prompted authorities to set up a sting operation with a car outfitted with a camera and “bait” money in it, prosecutors said.
As authorities served a search warrant Aug. 10, 2017, at 2518 N. Tustin Avenue, in Santa Ana, Rodriguez was directed to search the bait car, prosecutors said. Investigators put $1,200 in the car, but Rodriguez said he only found $10, prosecutors said.
Investigators found the rest of the money, which was marked, in Rodriguez’s wallet, and they also found 16 Disney and 11 Walmart gift cards in his pocket, prosecutors said. The gift cards had no money on them, and the owner said she intended to one day sell the Disney cards as collector’s items to Disney fans at some point, prosecutors said.
Rodriguez was convicted of one felony count of grand theft and a misdemeanor count of petty theft, but he was acquitted of another misdemeanor count of petty theft.
Rodriguez was scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19.