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Japan police officer referred to prosecutors on suspicion of stealing cash at vacant house

The Tochigi Prefectural Police headquarters is seen in this file photo taken in Utsunomiya. (Mainichi/Soon Lee)

UTSUNOMIYA -- A police officer in east Japan was referred to prosecutors and handed disciplinary dismissal for allegedly stealing about 8,000 yen (approx. $60) in cash and three watches at a vacant house he had learned about through his job, Tochigi Prefectural Police's inspection division announced on Dec. 2.

    Papers on the 29-year-old officer at Nasushiobara Police Station were sent to the Utsunomiya District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of embezzlement of lost property and violating a prefectural ordinance to protect personal information. His disciplinary dismissal was dated Dec. 2.

    In August 2021, the officer conducted an external examination of a man in his 60s who had lived alone in the town of Nasu and was found dead at home. The officer stands accused of accessing records at the police station on Nov. 7, 2021, to obtain the personal information of the deceased man and stealing the cash and watches by breaking a window to intrude into the vacant house the following day.

    According to police, the officer learned during an inspection in the deceased man's home that there was a safe at the house containing about 1 million yen (roughly $7,400). He attempted to steal the money but could not unlock the safe, and instead stole 8,000 yen and three watches. The police station received a report that evening saying that there was a suspicious man leaving the vacant house. From the car's license plate and other information spotted at the scene, the officer's involvement emerged. He has reportedly admitted to the allegations, and was quoted as saying, "I wanted to use the 1 million yen for my living expenses."

    It also came to light during the investigation that the officer had forgotten to send papers on an additional offense in an assault case to prosecutors in 2019, when he was working at Utsunomiya Chuo Police Station. To cover this up, he entered false information in a case management system in July the same year and discarded 28 investigative documents. For this misconduct, he was also referred to prosecutors on charges including illegal production and use of public electromagnetic records.

    Narutada Honzawa, chief inspector at the prefectural police, commented, "This is very regrettable, and we deeply apologize to the deceased man and prefectural residents. We will work to prevent a recurrence and recover trust from residents in the prefecture."

    (Japanese original by Mie Omokawa, Utsunomiya Bureau)

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