By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
A Clovis Police Department detective was arrested Wednesday on charges of embezzlement. He’s accused of using a department computer for personal use.
Keith Farkas, 38, of Clovis was arrested by state police and charged with one felony count of embezzlement and one count of tampering with evidence. The arrest occurred after seven months of investigation by Clovis police and state police.
Farkas, who was released on a $10,000 appearance bond, has been with the Clovis Police Department for more than 17 years. He has been on paid administrative leave since May while the department investigated a missing computer.
Attorney Randall Harris, a former district attorney from Clovis who is representing Farkas, said the detective had used the computer to print invitations at home and then returned it.
According to an arrest warrant filed Wednesday in magistrate court, Farkas reported to supervisors in December 2005 a department-issued computer was not working and he was provided a temporary one. About three months later, Farkas was issued a laptop from the city of Clovis, but had a request approved to keep the loaner in his office to use in monitoring inmate conversations, according to court documents.
In April, a city employee needed to retrieve files from the loaned computer. Farkas said the computer tower was gone but did not know who took it, according to the warrant affidavit.
Later that month, recently promoted Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair found a desktop computer in the department’s evidence locker with make, model and serial number matching the loaner computer, according to court documents.
The documents show Farkas said on April 27 that he messed up and was the one who had taken the computer tower.
The computer is valued at $900.
Harris said at a Thursday press conference Farkas passed a polygraph test in September.
Farkas took a polygraph test and the results were sent to the district attorney’s office, but Harris said investigators were never made aware of the test.
“This is clearly exculpable evidence that was not used,” Harris said.
Farkas was at the press conference but directed inquiries to Harris. He was surrounded by family members and associates in law enforcement, including Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.
“I’ve known Keith for a long time,” Hatcher said. “His character and integrity, as far as I’m concerned, has never been questioned.”
Harris said the allegations against Farkas could have a ripple effect since he’s the police department’s case agent in a few high-profile cases, including one in which a Clovis dentist is accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a waitress.
“You’ve got a death-penalty case hanging here and you’ve got your case agent here who borrowed a laptop,” Harris said. “It’s crazy.”
Blair said in a written statement he could not comment on personnel matters and would refer all inquiries to the New Mexico State Police.
Harris said he’s confident a judge will throw out the case against his client, but said the allegations could tarnish Farkas’ reputation, especially as a witness for prosecutors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.