FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- There are stunning allegations against an entire Fresno County department. Three employees are accused of stealing from the dead. The District Attorney's office is pursuing this case thoroughly, officials said Thursday.
The investigation has been going on for a few weeks now but they say theft from people who died without anyone to look after their estate has been happening for years.
Three unnamed Fresno County employees of the Public Administrator's Office are now accused of stealing from the dead. The case against them began several weeks ago as an internal investigation. It's now a criminal investigation and their former boss says he's devastated by the accusations.
"Well I feel violated, because these people had my support," said Dr. David Hadden. He used to be the elected official in charge of what was the County Coroner and Public Administrator's office.
The office, which has three public administrators and an accountant, who the DA says is not suspect in the case, handles estates of the dead when there is no family that can. Hadden said Thursday there was a system in place to prevent theft in what he calls 'an office subject to abuse.'
"When they go out to an estate to take inventory, they never take it by themselves," Hadden said. "They always have somebody with them, so there's a check. But what good does it do when they're both corrupt."
In January the public administrator's office merged with the district attorney's office following a Board of Supervisors vote. DA Lisa Smittcamp says it's not clear how many victims there are or how much money or personal items were stolen.
"It is the most disturbing thing that has happened to me since I've been sworn in.," Smittcamp said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "It is absolutely unacceptable to me as a citizen, as an elected official, and as the district attorney of this county, I am disgusted by this behavior and I will not tolerate it, and I will not allow it to continue."
She is now looking to other counties for guidance on moving forward since the office in question now has just one employee. The three suspected of the theft were placed on leave last week. Two of them have since resigned. Dr. Hadden says their jobs ranged in pay from roughly $40,000-$50,000 a year, and each had been employed for more than five years.
Hadden says he was only able to investigate any possible wrongdoing when a complaint was filed. None, he says, on this scale ever came to him during his administration.
The DA's office is vowing to make changes, and is urging anyone who may have information, or know of victims, to report that immediately.
For more information on possible theft from estates of deceased in Fresno County:
Call 559-600-2115 or toll free: 855-600-6595 or go to www.co.fresno.ca.us