A former King County sheriff's deputy was ordered held on $250,000 bail Tuesday amid allegations that he stole drugs and other evidence while working undercover for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mitchell J. Wright, 33, was arrested at his Bothell-area home on Monday for investigation of possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics, theft, and tampering with evidence, as KIRO Radio first reported.
Wright resigned from his position as a deputy with the sheriff's office on July 9 in lieu of termination after a separate investigation was launched into allegations that he used government computer systems to access information against department policy.
According to court documents released Tuesday, Wright was assigned to the DEA field office in Seattle in 2009 to work with a task force dedicated to investigating federal and state-level drug crimes. He was reassigned from that position in February 2013 and resumed work as a patrol deputy out of the sheriff's office in Shoreline.
Concerns about misconduct on the part of Wright first surfaced in May 2013, when a Bothell police officer caught a woman injecting heroin into her arm in the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant. According to court documents, the woman was in a Dodge Ram registered to Wright and told the officer that she worked for him as an informant. The woman also told the officer that she lived with Wright, according to the documents.
A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered drugs and drug paraphernalia, the documents read.
The King County Sheriff's Office launched an internal investigation into the incident and Wright was placed on administrative leave on July 3.
On July 20, King county deputies cleaning out Wright's previously assigned patrol car found three "small plastic baggies" marked with DEA case numbers. Residue inside the baggies tested positive for heroin, according to court documents.
It was later determined that between $36,450 and $52,490 worth of narcotics seized by Wright during his time with the DEA were never placed into evidence, according to the documents. Those drugs included hundreds of prescriptions pills, including Oxycodone.
Wright's father, Michael Wright, appeared in court Tuesday to speak on his son's behalf and identified himself as a retired, 24-year veteran of the DEA.
"Mitchell grew up in a law enforcement family," Wright said. "He has two uncles and an aunt who are also in law enforcement."
Prosecutors expressed concern Tuesday that Wright would not return to court if released on bail and feared he would flee the country using a fake identify created for him by the federal government.
"The DEA is concerned because the defendant still has not turned over his undercover identity documents," said Steven Kim, a senior deputy prosecutor for the King County Prosecutor's Office.
District Court Judge Pro Tem Lisa O'Toole ordered Wright to surrender his passport based on statements from his landlord that he planned to move to Australia.
Family members of Wright who were present in the courtroom Tuesday declined to speak with the media.
Wright joined the department in November 2002. In 2006, he was named "Shoreline Police Officer of the Year" by his peers. That year, Wright was credited with making more than 150 arrests, "including numerous arrests of suspects in stolen cars, felony narcotics violations, and other serious crimes," according to a City of Shoreline annual report.
In the report, Chief Tony Burtt was quoted as saying that Wright "has the heart of a lion, excellent police instincts, and the willingness to risk his safety in order to serve the citizens of Shoreline."
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