Former Harris County DA's Office investigator arrested, accused of stealing evidence
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The FBI is accusing a former Harris County District Attorney's Office investigator of stealing and selling collectible comic books collected as evidence in a fraud investigation.
It's a complicated story involving a comic book caper. Only this time, federal agents say former DA's Office Investigator Lonnie Blevins is the alleged thief.
Blevins appeared before a judge in federal court Tuesday on theft charges.
Investigators say the comic books Blevins allegedly stole were linked to an embezzlement case he was handling involving former attorney Anthony Chiafalo, and they were worth more than a million dollars.
A court document states Blevins traveled to a couple of cities to sell those stolen vintage comics.
"My client is not in a position to defend himself when you've got people stealing from him," said Paul Doyle, Chiafalo's attorney.
Chiafalo is in jail, accused of stealing $9 million from his employer, Tadano -- a Japan-based company that produces high-end commercial cranes.
Philip Hilder represents Tadano.
"It's alleged that the comic books were purchased with stolen funds taken from Tadano," Hilder said.
Prosecutors say Chiofalo, 51, created a fake law firm funneling away millions to his personal account, and according to investigators, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on comic books and sports memorabilia.
According to court documents, the FBI believes Blevins stole Chiafalo's comic books from a storage unit containing evidence from the embezzlement case.
Investigators say Blevins later sold the comics to dealers at a convention in Chicago for $70,000.
Witnesses told the FBI that Blevins claimed he inherited the comics from his father. He reportedly identified himself as a police officer from Texas and asked for the money in small check amounts, saying he was going through a divorce and didn't want his estranged wife to find out about the sale.
Blevins turned himself in to FBI agents early Tuesday morning
"I do not know why an investigator who has the trust of the public, is paid for by the public, gets to walk in here with the red carpet, surrender himself and get a bond, and my client doesn't get one," Doyle said.
Blevins left the DA's office in December of last year and was hired on at the Bexar County District Attorney's office.
His lawyer, Dick Deguerin told us Blevins just "resigned from his job in Bexar County because he didn't want the fact that he's charged to reflect poorly on the DA's office."
Deguerin said Blevins is pleading not guilty to the criminal charges.
Chiafalo's attorney told me after this arrest, he'll be asking the DA to drop the charges against client.
"I can't see how the DA's office would want to move forward after this kind of misconduct and the handling of the prosecution," Doyle said. "The fundamental problem with this is who's going to believe somebody that's charged with stealing? When we say that his assets have been taken, nobody is going to listen. And it's a perfect target to steal from when you have investigators that behave this way. And I think in order to deter this, the DA's office needs to dismiss my client's case."
Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson released a statement early Wednesday.
"Our office has cooperated fully with this ongoing investigation and will continue to do so," Anderson said. "This is consistent with my pledge to the citizens of Harris County to restore integrity to the District Attorney's Office. The misconduct alleged in this case is serious and will not be tolerated by this administration, nor should it reflect on the many dedicated men and women of the D.A.'s Office, who continue to do their jobs with the highest level of professionalism on a daily basis."
Late Tuesday, Eyewitness News learned a second investigator in the Harris County District Attorney's Office also is being investigated. That investigator's name is being withheld but we're told the detective is suspended with pay until the FBI completes its investigation.
Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for updates as we continue following this story.
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