Former homicide detective caught up in 'stealing from deceased' scandal

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As investigators dug into Fresno County employees stealing from dead people, the evidence pointed them to one of their own -- a district attorney investigator and former homicide detective at the Fresno County sheriff's office.

DeWayne Chatman spent about 20 years in law enforcement working crime scenes all over the county. But as the scandal at the public administrator's office unfolded, investigators believe they found evidence of his involvement, and then they found even more.

Chatman walked crime scenes for years as a detective. And on the side, he started a lucrative biorecovery business called California Trauma Tech, cleaning up similar scenes and often following the public administrator's office into homes.

Investigators found corruption inside that office two years ago, and Action News uncovered a search warrant revealing some of the chief suspects made the connection to Chatman and his business.

In a new criminal case, the state attorney general's office accuses Chatman of perjury when he tried to transfer three vehicles into his name and claimed they were all gifts from the public administrator's office.

"There's no way the public administrator's office can really give the vehicle to someone else," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "The argument the defense would make is 'My company did work for the public administrator's office. Rather than paying me money, I said just give me the cars.'"

Capozzi says a jury might find that hard to believe. And the investigation didn't end there.

"The investigative techniques are just remarkable," Capozzi said. "How they found the tentacles of fraud from the public administrator's office to this individual company."

Chatman's own co-workers at the DA's office started looking into his business. The warrant shows they found he cashed about $33,000 worth of checks from the county to his business over six months in 2014.

Investigators say he seemed to have several employees, but the state had no record of him reporting payroll, withholding taxes, or paying unemployment insurance.

So the case against Chatman is 27 felony counts, most of them involving employment and tax fraud. We tried to reach Chatman at his Chowchilla home, but he lives in a gated community and we couldn't get in. An attorney listed in the search warrant didn't return our phone call.

Chatman lost his job at the DA's office, and he's due in court later this month.
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