Fairbanks police officer faces theft charges after stealing money

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - We have more information on former Fairbanks Police Officer Manuel Beza who is facing charges of fourth degree theft and official misconduct for stealing money from a citizen. The Fairbanks Police Department was contacted by a citizen on November 27 who reported they turned over a wallet containing a driver's license, credit cards and $120 in cash. They said the wallet was turned over to former officer Manuel Beza and when the wallet was returned to the owner the cash was not inside. According FPD, an investigation was opened and determined there was not a reasonable explanation for the money to be missing.

Police Chief Eric Jewkes explained how the investigation proceeded.

"Then we start to go in just like any other criminal investigation. We talk to the person who reported it, we talk to the owner of the property and we talk to the involved person or the suspect, the possible witnesses, and we just take it through like we would any other criminal investigation," he said.

The person reported they found the wallet on November 23 at Justa Store, and after trying to contact the owner, chose to turn it over to Fairbanks Police. On their way to the station, they were involved in a vehicle accident to which Beza was a responding officer and it was then that the wallet was given to him. The person contacted the owner again to update them on the wallet's whereabouts.

Beza initially denied taking the money, saying there was no money in the wallet when he received it, but he later admitted to taking between 60 and 80 dollars. According to FPD, the exact amount of cash that was in the wallet is unknown, but they confirmed all of it was taken by Beza.

Chief Jewkes said he is thankful the person trusted the department.

"Luckily, you know, they came to us. And I think that means a lot to us as an organization, that someone would go out of their way to have this happen, to suspect that something bad had happened and still trust us as an organization to take care of it," he said.

The investigation only lasted a few days and Beza did resign on December 7. Charges have been forwarded to the District Attorney and Office of Special Prosecutions. Fairbanks Police spokesperson, Yumi McCulloch, confirmed the owner of the wallet will be reimbursed by the City.