published Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrests former deputy on theft evidence tampering charges

COOKEVILLE — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested a former deputy after a nine month investigation into allegations of theft and tampering with evidence against Connor Etzler Wardlaw, age 34 of Sparta, TN.

On June 20, 2013, at the request of the District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis, TBI began an investigation along with the District Attorney General’s office. From June 2011 to May 2013, the investigation revealed that Wardlaw made numerous arrests for drug related offenses during which he seized drug evidence, monies, personal property and vehicles in accordance with police procedure and TN forfeiture laws. However, on many occasions, Wardlaw would return seized property to the owners in exchange for a cash donation to the Van Buren County drug fund. Although the contributions were made by citizens, those funds were not entered into the county drug fund. Wardlaw withdrew money from the drug fund and documentation for the money expended was absent.

Additionally, further investigation had shown that evidence was removed by Wardlaw or missing. When Wardlaw terminated his employment with the Sheriff’s Office, various official documents and investigative case files disappeared.

This morning, a Van Buren Grand Jury returned indictments for the following charges:

• Theft under $500

• Theft over $500

• Theft over $1,000

• Official Misconduct

• Tampering with Evidence

• Official Oppression

• Destruction of Public Records

This afternoon, Wardlaw was taken into custody at his residence in Sparta without incident by members of the District Attorney’s office and TBI Agents. The White County Sheriff’s Office transported Wardlaw to the Van Buren County jail and he has a $175,000.00 bond. This investigation is still active and ongoing.

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