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Former deputy in Van Buren indicted for stealing money
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A former Van Buren County deputy faces multiple charges for pocketing drug fund money he solicited from drug dealers and then doctoring official records to cover up his crime.
The former lawman, Connor Etzler Wardlaw, 34, of Sparta, was indicted Wednesday on charges of tampering with evidence, official oppression, destruction of public records, official misconduct, grand theft and misdemeanor theft. He was arrested shortly after the sealed indictment was handed down by the Van Buren County grand jury and he is being held at Van Buren County Jail under $175,000 bond.
His charges come after an investigation was requested last year by District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis after word spread about his illegal dealings. The TBI then began looking into his alleged misdoings and discovered a trail of thefts and cover-ups that dated back to June 2011.
The investigation revealed Wardlaw made numerous arrests while a Van Buren deputy on drug-related offenses. During the course of those arrests, he seized drugs, money, property and vehicles as is allowed under the state’s forfeiture law.
The issue began when the lawman began returning some of the seized evidence to drug traffickers in exchange for a “cash donation” to the Van Buren County Drug Fund. However, investigators say much of the money never made it into the account. They also say Wardlaw would routinely withdraw money from the drug fund account but would not document the withdrawals.
Investigators believe Wardlaw tried to cover his tracks when he terminated his employment with the agency last year by removing or destroying official documents and case files.