PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — The former Hartford police chief has been charged with several felonies after she allegedly admitted to stealing from the drug disposal box at the police department.
Tressa Beltran was arraigned in a Paw Paw courtroom Wednesday afternoon on nine counts: delivery of narcotics, using a computer to commit a crime, extortion, embezzlement over $50 by a public official, common law offenses, larceny in a building, and three charges for possession of various drugs.
“What we have here was the most egregious kind of assault on the public’s trust in police officers,” Judge Michael McKay said. “And an assault on, basically, law enforcement itself — all the men and women that go out and serve honorably every day to retain the public’s trust.”
He set a $100,000 bond. Beltran was led away in handcuffs.
“Initial reaction to the charges when I originally found them out was, ‘Wow, this is not the Ms. Beltran that I know, that I’ve worked with as a prosecutor in this county, as a defense attorney,'” Beltran’s attorney Donald Sappanos told reporters after arraignment. “I think once you guys hear the whole story and have access to the police report and we are able to give more interviews later on, you’ll understand why this allegedly occurred.”
Search warrants from the summer of 2022 show that after the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office got a tip that Beltran was stealing narcotics, investigators left two marked bottles of hydrocodone in a disposal box called a Red Med box at the Hartford Police Department. When they returned to collect the box’s contents, the documents said, Beltran wouldn’t initially turn them over. She eventually did and they found that a total of 23 pills from the marked bottles were gone.
Investigators raided the Hartford Police Department on June 30, 2022. They said they found several prescription bottles and loose hydrocodone pills in Beltran’s purse. Court records say Beltran admitted that day she was stealing drugs from the Red Med box and using them.
“She did confess to taking the Target bag that I placed in there (the Red Med Box). She took that out, took pills from there and did try and replace them with pills that she got from another source,” Detective Lucas Keene with the sheriff’s office narcotics unit said during a probable cause hearing Tuesday. “So she had stole those from the Red Med bin that was inside the police department.”
When investigators went through Beltran’s phone, they say they found texts in which she asked a dealer for “puppies” — drugs. When detectives interviewed that dealer, he said he sold oxycodone pills to Beltran “anytime that she would ask for them,” Keene said in court.
The dealer said Beltran told him “she would make things bad for him if he didn’t sell to her,” Keene said, including threatening to call the dealer’s parole officer.
The dealer said he met Beltran through her nephew, also one of his customers, Keene said. The dealer told investigators that he saw Beltran take money from her nephew and give him drugs in return.
Keene said a search of Beltran’s work computer found searches that showed her attempting to identify pills.
Beltran was placed on administrative leave from her job the same day as the raid. She resigned in January of this year after 33 years with the city of Hartford. At the time, she said in a post on Facebook she would work to better herself “and the medical/dependency issues.”
Sappanos, Beltran’s lawyer, said she has undergone treatment and “if there was a problem, it’s under control.”
He acknowledged his client “has let a lot of folks down, if these allegations are true,” but also argued they should be weighed against “the overall quality police work that she’s provided for our community throughout the years.”
“She (was) a police officer in our community and our community relies on its police officers to do the right thing,” Sappanos said. “I think you can see in there that she’s very contrite. She’s trying to do the right things to make this as good as she can for not only herself, her loved ones, and the community.”
Beltran is expected back in court for a hearing June 14. The delivery of drugs, computer and extortion charges are all punishable by up to 20 years in prison and the embezzlement charge by up to 10 years.
—News 8’s Ken Kolker contributed to this report.