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Former cops investigated

Future court dates not yet set

NEAVES

MARQUETTE — More information into the investigation of two former area law enforcement officers arrested on drug-related charges has been obtained.

Richard Joseph Neaves, 31, of Marquette and Todd Andrew Collins, 36, of Negaunee were arraigned in Marquette County’s 96th District Court in early December on two-count felony warrants issued by the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office, according to a state police press release.

Count 1 was conspiracy to commit controlled substance-delivery/manufacture (schedules 1, 2, 3 except marihuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine), which is a seven-year felony and/or $20,000 fine and a $10,000 additional fine. The second count was using a computer to commit a crime, which carries a maximum imprisonment of four to 10 years.

Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Christopher Croley said the controlled substance was steroids, a schedule 3 drug.

Neaves was a former officer with the Marquette City Police Department and the Negaunee Police Department and Collins was a drug canine handler with the Marquette department.

COLLINS

Charges were brought based on information discovered during separate criminal investigations.

According to a Michigan Department of State Police Original Incident Report obtained from the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office by The Mining Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request, MSP Detective Sgt. Jeff Marker initiated a criminal investigation on Dec. 8, 2018, involving Neaves breaking into the prescription drug take back box in the lobby of the Negaunee Police Department and his taking of prescription medications from it on several occasions. Neaves admitted to Marker on that day “that he broke into the prescription drug box and removed antidepressants and Xanax on approximately 10 occasions,” documents state.

Neaves was suspended that day.

The incident was initially noted by another NPD officer on Dec. 7, 2018, who upon observation of the theft on the department’s live feed surveillance system called Negaunee City Police Chief Jay Frusti. Frusti reported to the police department and “discovered that Officer Neaves had successfully picked the lock on the drug box … and Neaves was observed to be searching inside the drug drop box and reaching inside. Frusti further indicated he had discovered video of Neaves making numerous attempts to break into the drug box on 12/7/18,” the incident report states. “In addition, he had discovered video of Neaves covering the surveillance camera in the lobby with a uniform shirt for large segments in time on 11/25/2018.”

Frusti then turned the incident over to the MSP for further investigation.

Just five days after the initial investigation commenced, Marker was assigned an additional complaint involving an unnamed officer at the Negaunee Police Department “and possibly Officer Richard Neaves.” The complaint was in regards to an incident which occurred on Dec. 5, 2018, in which a couple turned in $4,500 cash to an unnamed officer that they believed to be counterfeit. When the couple returned a week later to inquire about the money they were advised there was no record of it at the police department.

In the supplemental incident report, Detective Craig Grahovac of the Negaunee City Police Department indicated Neaves came into work the same evening the money was turned over to the department.

“It was noted by Marker during his investigations that Officer (unnamed) and Officer Neaves were good friends and have both mentioned in the past about having financial problems,” the documents state.

While reviewing data obtained from the Michigan State Police Eighth District Computer Crimes Unit extracted from Neaves’ phone regarding two MSP Negaunee Post investigations, Marker advised that on Aug. 19, 2019, he discovered conversations between Neaves and Collins dating from June 2017 to November 2018 in which they discuss the ordering and purchasing of controlled substances.

The substances mentioned were Sustanon, Enthanate, Winstrol and Turinabol, which are all anabolic steroids and considered Schedule III controlled substances, according to the documents.

“In a series of texts Officer Collins discusses ordering the above substances from Officer Neaves,” the documents state. “They also discuss quantity and prices. The text messages also reveal Officer Collins sends money to Officer Neaves for the controlled substances via Venmo, a mobile money transfer application.”

Similar text messages were discovered between Neaves and an unnamed officer.

Marquette City Police Chief Blake Rieboldt then made an official request for the MSP to investigate the allegations.

Based on the information obtained in that investigation by Marker, Detective Lt. Chris Croley was assigned to an investigation into Collins and an unnamed Marquette City Police officer. Croley obtained a search warrant to seize the personal and work cell phones of the officers as well as the in-car laptop of Collins. Both officers were put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

In a phone interview with The Mining Journal, Rieboldt said the MSP was requested to conduct the initial investigation for transparency and once it was concluded the MPD began an internal investigation.

“I think the Michigan State Police was investigating a complaint from the Negaunee Police Department and then during the course of that investigation information was identified implicating officers from our department,” Rieboldt said. “They brought that to our attention and immediately we requested them to continue their investigation and basically we stayed hands on upon it. We weren’t involved or influenced in that investigation at all.”

The actions of the officers involved in the investigations are not a reflection of the department, he added.

“The only thing I would like people to realize is this isn’t a reflection of the men and women of the Marquette Police Department,” Rieboldt said. “Our staff makes a difference in this community every day and I am proud of our staff and what they do in this community every day and unfortunately this is an isolated incident but it does not reflect on the rest of our department.”

A preliminary examination was scheduled for Collins and Neaves Thursday afternoon, but according to Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese both parties agreed that there was no need to hold a prelim.

Neaves waived the preliminary examination, meaning the case will be bound over to the 25th Circuit Court as it would have had the prelim been held and the judge found probable cause.

Collins is expected to enter a plea deal, Wiese added.

Future court dates have not yet been set.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.