Ex-Kent jail guard charged with stealing cash from inmates

King County prosecutors charged a former city of Kent corrections officer Tuesday with nine counts of third-degree theft for allegedly stealing money from property boxes used for storing cash and personal belongings of inmates.

Michael E. Pickens, 42, has been terminated by the Kent Police Department after video surveillance included images of Pickens entering the property lockers of inmates at the city jail and removing cash from envelopes, according to a Kent Police media release.

Pickens is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. March 14 in Courtroom GA at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center. Pickens will be issued a summons to appear in court

The incidents occurred between July 2010 and January 2011, according to charging papers. Pickens worked 3 1/2 years as a Kent corrections officer.

Kent Corrections officials determined last September that small sums of money were missing from secured property lockers used to store personal belongings, including cash, of inmates while they are in jail.

Kent Police conducted an internal investigation and asked the Tukwila Police to conduct a criminal investigation. Tukwila Police completed their investigation last week.

Pickens told a Tukwila detective that he started to take $20 to $30 from the property lockers in July, according to charging papers. He said he was going to return the money but was placed on administrative leave (Jan. 18) and did not have the opportunity. Pickens estimated he had taken a total of about $700.

Pickens told the detective in a written statement that he used the money to gamble and to stay in hotels while he was having marital problems. He also said he was sorry and was willing to pay the money back.

Video surveillance showed Pickens reportedly taking as many as 10 $20 bills from one envelope and putting the money in his pants pocket. He also is seen unlocking another property box and a $100 bill.

Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said extensive background checks and polygraph examinations are required for all Kent corrections staff.

“Those checks provided no indication for Pickens’ behavior in this case,” Thomas said.

Thomas added this is a very disappointing situation and a clear violation of the public trust.

“It is an affront to the men and women of this profession that conduct themselves with dignity and respect every day," Thomas said.

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