Corrections officer accused of stealing inmate IDs

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter , Brianne Lasch , Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville corrections officer has pleaded not guilty to charges of filing false tax returns with identities he stole from inmates.

Harold Bush Walbey III, 45, faces up to 57 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. He was arrested Thursday and declined comment through attorney James Hernandez.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Malisa Chokshi says Walbey requested $257,000 in false tax returns and received $110,000 after filing more than 50 false tax returns.

An indictment says Walbey took the inmates names and Social Security numbers while working at John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility. He then ordered debit cards in the inmates' names and filed returns for 2010 and 2011.

Walbey worked at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office from August 1992 until February.

 "The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigates all allegations of criminal activity that may involve our employees," Sheriff John Rutherford said. "In this case our investigators from the Integrity/Special Investigations Unit, working with our federal agency partners, effected two arrests -- Mr. Walbey and his daughter, Tianna Walbey, who was arrested in February on federal charges in this same crime."

The Sheriff's Office released Walbey's "Internal Concise Officer History," which is similar to an employee file.

It states Webley was first hired in 1990 and retired last February. Twenty-one incidents are in the report, dating back to Walbey's first year with the Sheriff's Office.

One incident involved an inmate complaint, not sustained, back in Dec. 2010. Someone accused Walbey of excessive force in March 2011, but that was not sustained.

However, all of the following situations were marked "sustained:"

  • 4 citizen complaints include "conduct unbecoming."
  • 5 entries refer to formal counseling, given for things like tardiness.
  • 5 entries say "in-house complaint," and include more tardiness, eventually resulting in suspensions from work.
  • 1 Oral Reprimand in 1991.
  • In March 1997, there are six written reprimands documented. The first is listed as "incompetency," the next for tardiness in 1999. Two more for "failure to conform to work standards." Another for tardiness in March 2000. The final formal discipline noted in the file comes in 2007, with a citizen complaint for "Improper Action – Performance of Duty."

Sheriff Rutherford issued a statement Friday night, saying in part, "An employee entrusted with access to confidential information breached that trust criminally. We will work to bring the full weight of the federal prosecution to bear on these individuals for those crimes."

The spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office points out an omission in the employment report, that Walbey was arrested in 2001 for child neglect. He should have reported that to his own agency, as that's JSO policy.

JSO said they do not have a record of Walbey being processed through their jail and do not have a booking photo of him for that same reason.

Walbey was arraigned in federal court Thursday. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bond. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2014. If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum penalty of 22 years in federal prison.

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