A former Chamberlain-based highway patrol trooper has been arrested for stealing as much as $69,668 that had been seized from suspects in drug cases, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Monday.
In a joint news release with Brule County State’s Attorney David Natvig, Jackley said Brian William Biehl, 47, of Platte had been arrested Nov. 4 on a criminal complaint of grand theft of law by enforcement of seized property. Biehl was accused of stealing seized money while he was a state trooper, the release said.
In a separate news release Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Craig Price said Biehl had worked for the highway patrol for 15 years in the Chamberlain area but was no longer a state trooper.
“These allegations are serious. We are reviewing our policies and procedures to determine if there is anything we can do to prevent this from ever happening again,” Price said in the release.
Price said he could not comment further on the ongoing criminal case.
Biehl’s arrest was based on an investigation conducted by the state Division of Criminal Investigation. It began in October, according to an affidavit written by DCI Special Agent Guy Di Benedetto, who conducted the investigation.
On Oct. 21, Di Benedetto said in the affidavit, Assistant Attorney General Michael Sharp went to the Highway Patrol’s Chamberlain squad office to review evidence for a trial with two troopers, one of whom was Biehl. During the review, $3,850 worth of cash came up missing from an evidence bag that was supposed to contain $7,590 that had been seized in the case.
That same day, Biehl and another trooper met with their lieutenant and captain. Another $1,540 was found to be missing from an evidence bag that was supposed to contain $4,262 of cash seized following an arrest Biehl had made, according to Di Benedetto’s affidavit.
Biehl’s captain asked the DCI to conduct an investigation after the second discovery was made. After the DCI was called in, Biehl asked to meet with his sergeant. According to the affidavit, they met along Interstate 90 near White Lake and Biehl admitted to taking the missing cash.
It was then, Di Benedetto said, that he went to Chamberlain to speak with Biehl. During the interview, Di Benedetto said, Biehl waived his Miranda rights and said being “short on money” was one of the reasons he started pilfering cash from evidence bags
Initially, Biehl told Di Benedetto that he had taken about $20,000 over the course of four or five years. Biehl said he still had evidence bags from which he’d taken money. Eventually, Biehl would tell Di Benedetto that he had planned to pay all of the money back, the affidavit said.
Di Benedetto’s affidavit also said Biehl denied taking money from suspects before it had been seized as evidence, that he never took money from someone and “kicked them loose” and that he denied seizing drugs and selling those for money.
By the end of Di Benedetto’s interview, Biehl admitted that he’d probably taken more than $53,000 of cash seized from suspects in his cases. Biehl could not recall all the details from each case but told Di Benedetto that he had, at one point, taken all $20,000 he’d seized in one case about three years ago. Biehl said the money sat in his evidence locker for a year before he started slipping cash from the evidence bag.
Di Benedetto also asked Biehl if he remembered when he started taking money. Biehl said the first instance occurred in 2012 but he couldn’t recall the exact details of the case. The last time Biehl said he took seized cash from a case was Oct. 19, 2016, according to the affidavit.
Through the course of his investigation, Di Benedetto wrote, he found that Biehl had taken money from a total of 15 different cases between May 5, 2015 and Oct. 19, 2016 for a total of $69,668.
After his arrest Nov. 4, Biehl was released on a $5,000 bond. His next court date was set for Nov. 16 in Brule County.