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Skeletons in the property room

Fulton detention officer arrested for stealing from his prior employer

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Tyrone Leroy Sumpter had worked as a detention officer at the Fulton County jail for more than two years when, on Oct. 1, he was booked into the jail on four felony charges of his own.

Sumpter's alleged crimes are said to have taken place behind the walls of another detention center -- a central Florida prison. Sumpter, 31, worked at the Central Florida Reception Center as a corrections officer until the month before the Fulton County Sheriff's Department hired him away in the summer of 2001.

Because Sumpter had applied for the Fulton job in early 2001 -- months before Florida officials were able to piece together Sumpter's alleged role in a year-old crime -- Sumpter slipped through the Fulton Sheriff's background check.

The Fulton Sheriff's Department had no way of knowing they'd just hired a detention officer accused of stealing jewelry from the Florida prison's property room and falsifying documents to cover his tracks, allegations outlined in a Florida Department of Corrections incident report dated six days after Fulton County hired Sumpter.

Apparently, nobody from the Department of Corrections bothered telling Fulton County about this revelation. Fulton County received two rave reviews from Florida -- and no updates regarding what must have been a change in opinion of Sumpter's qualifications.

"Officer Sumpter is a hardworking and dedicated employee who I strongly feel would be a great loss to the Florida Department of Corrections," prison employee Renetta Jones wrote to Fulton County two months prior to the discovery that Sumpter may have been a thief.

Nor was the Florida State Attorney of Orange County able to track down Sumpter at the Fulton Sheriff's Department to let him know charges had been filed against him in January 2002 alleging grand theft, forgery, trafficking stolen goods and misconduct by a public servant.

In August 2000, when Sumpter was still employed at the Florida prison, $1,900 in jewelry belonging to an inmate named Trent Cole disappeared from the property room -- along with a prison form, filled out by Cole, documenting the jewelry's existence, according to Orange County documents. The form had been replaced with a forged one in which no mention of any jewelry was made.

Florida Department of Corrections officials later used handwriting samples to determined that Sumpter was the likely forger. Their investigation also revealed that Sumpter had pawned some jewelry at American Pawn Store the week Cole's bling-bling went missing.

"This guy had nine pages of pawns between 2000 and now," says Orange County Sheriff's Capt. Bernie Presha.

Cole, still in prison, later verified the goods recovered at the pawn shop were his.

In May 2001, when investigators informed Central Florida Prison Warden Ron McAndrews that Sumpter was suspected in the theft, "Sumpter, who was working at the time, was escorted off [the] property and advised McAndrews that he was resigning," the Department of Corrections report states.

It's possible that Sumpter had fallen upon hard times leading up the alleged theft. According to the Orlando Sentinel's daily listing of public records, as well as a credit report attached to his Fulton application, Sumpter had filed for bankruptcy in 1999. The credit report also states Sumpter had unpaid balances with three collections agencies.

He was extradited to Florida Oct. 7.

In his 30-page Fulton County application filled out in early 2001, one question asked of Sumpter becomes fishy in light of his ignoble departure from his preceding job. "Many people have taken something they really didn't have permission to take from a place where they worked," the application states. "Have you ever committed an undetected crime?"

"No," he answered.

mara.shalhoup@creativeloafing.com

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