A former King County sheriff’s deputy who worked undercover for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration admitted that he stole drugs that the federal agency seized in various investigations and hid them in the woods behind his Bothell home, according to court documents.
A King County District Court judge set Mitchell J. Wright’s bail at $250,000 on Tuesday. The 33-year-old Bothell man was arrested Monday at his home on charges of first-degree theft, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, first-degree possession of stolen property and tampering with physical evidence.
Wright, a 10-year veteran of the King County Sherriff’s Office, was assigned during that time to the DEA’s office in Seattle and was commissioned as a task force officer to investigate federal and state-level controlled substance violations as part of the Tactical Diversion Squad.
He was reassigned from that position in February for administrative reasons; however, the DEA had no suspicions of wrong-doing at that time, according to probable cause documents.
But Wright was placed on administrative leave on July 3, after the sheriff’s office launched an investigation into his friend, who claimed she was Wright’s informant.
Bothell police Officer Ryan Stapleton was patrolling the McDonald’s parking lot in Bothell around 2 a.m. May 25 when he saw the woman in a parked Dodge Ram pickup truck. He approached the truck and saw a woman with a hypodermic needle in her right arm and believed she was injecting heroin, court documents continue. The woman claimed the truck belonged to Wright, whom she lived with and said she was an informant for.
During a search of his truck, detectives found and seized drug paraphernalia and drugs.
Wright resigned in lieu of termination on July 9.
The Sherriff’s Office ordered Wright to surrender his assigned marked patrol car when he was placed on administrative leave. A subsequent search of the car turned up three plastic baggies that were marked with DEA case numbers and evidence numbers indicating they were exhibits from two previous investigations.
Both of the cases were controlled substance violations that were investigated by the DEA squad to which Wright was assigned. The baggies contained 2.5 grams of heroin.
Detectives found that federal prosecution was declined for both cases and the DEA released the drug exhibits to Wright for prosecution in Washington state courts on May 1. However, none of the items were placed into the Sheriff’s Office evidence system, the documents continue.
In addition to the three baggies of heroin, detectives found that Wright also received more than 1,600 oxycodone pills, more than 230 grams of benzodiazepine and five grams of cocaine, according to probable cause documents. The total street value of the drugs that Wright allegedly stole was between $36,500 and $52,500.
A Sheriff’s Office evidence technician searched the office’s evidence computer database and found that none of the drugs that Wright received were entered into the evidence system.
In an Aug. 16 statement, King County sheriff’s Detective Timothy Gillette wrote that Wright admitted to “keeping the drugs that he knew were for investigation and burying them in the woods behind his house.” Gillette said Wright showed him the FedEx box the drugs were transported in, which was located in his recycling bin with nothing in the box. The statement does not indicate whether detectives found any drugs in the woods.
Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr recognized Wright as Shoreline Police Officer of the Year in 2006 for making more than 150 arrests, including numerous arrests for felony narcotics violations.
Then-Chief Tony Burtt said Wright “has the heart of a lion, excellent police instincts and the willingness to risk his safety in order to serve the citizens of Shoreline,” according to an annual Shoreline Police performance report.