By Kara Lopp
A former Matthews Police Department property clerk is accused of stealing a handgun and about $2,000 from the department.
These were among the details Matthews Police Chief Rob Hunter gave media Thursday, May 23 during an interview outside the police station.
Melissa Guillet, 35, is charged with three felony counts of embezzlement of funds by a public officer. Guillet was fired May 13 after a three-week investigation, according to a news release from the town. Guillet was employed by the department since 2007 and served as property control technician since 2009. She was responsible for the security and management of all seized and found property items.
“This type of action or conduct is something that we will not tolerate. When things like this are done, people are going to be held accountable,” Hunter said. “What I’ve struggled with, more than anything, is that it affects the integrity and reputation of every person in this department. I think the vast majority of employees were very overtaken by this. By all appearances and performance, she was a proficient employee.”
Police received a tip from Guillet’s estranged husband about the thefts, Hunter said. After being questioned, Guillet admitting taking the items and turned herself in late last week after a warrant for her arrest was issued, Hunter said. Detectives believe the thefts occurred during a 12 to18 month period.
Hunter said the thefts will not affect pending court cases.
The money – part of which was seized during the shutdown of a prostitution ring inside a massage parlor several years ago – was to be given to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, according to state law. The gun was scheduled to be destroyed, and Guillet told detectives she brought the gun back to the department and it was destroyed. Hunter said last week there’s no way to prove that and officials have registered the gun with federal agencies in case it’s ever found.
The department is conducting a “complete audit” of all the items in the property room, Hunter said, to determine if anything else is missing. The check also includes all items needed as evidence in pending court cases, he
Hunter said while the department’s policies regarding incoming property are secure, there was less scrutiny over property that was ready to be either donated or destroyed. Guillet, he said, was the only person who ever saw those items.
New department policies now require at least two people to catalog and sign off on all outgoing property, he said.
“This unfortunately, but I guess you could say fortunately, pointed out some deficiencies” in the department’s procedures, he said, adding embezzlement is often a “crime of opportunity.
“I will accept some responsibility for that. What was not in place is now in place,” Hunter said. “A single individual had autonomy, had control, and that has been changed.”
In his 26 years of law enforcement, Hunter said he’s never seen a case like this in Matthews.
“We’ve had misconduct by employees, I think every agency deals with that, but we’ve never had something to this level dealing with evidence and property. I had hoped to complete my career without something like this.”