By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Investigators with the Keizer Police Department have arrested a state employee believed to be manufacturing and distributing counterfeit U.S. currency from his Keizer home.
Michael Wayne Dietrich, 29, was arrested on Thursday.
Police had been looking for Dietrich since Wednesday. Dietrich is a unit supervisor for the State of Oregon Department of Revenue.
Captain Jeff Kuhns with the KPD said his department got a tip around 12:30 p.m. Thursday Dietrich was at his home at 1255 Moneda Avenue North.
“Officers responded to the residence immediately and made contact with Michael Dietrich, at which time he was taken into custody without incident,” Kuhns said.
Kuhns said Dietrich was charged with 52 counts of forgery in the first degree and 52 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, plus one charge each of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, tampering with physical evidence and first degree burglary. He was booked into Marion County Correctional Facility with bail set at $1,095,000.
Kuhns said additional charges could be forthcoming after the Marion County District Attorney’s Office reviews all of the materials.
His wife, Melissa A. Dietrich, 30, was arrested Wednesday evening but later released.
Bob Estabrook, public information officer for the DOR, released a statement Thursday afternoon on behalf of the DOR.
“Mr. Dietrich is absent from work today without permission and is therefore on unapproved leave without pay,” the statement read. “His authority to access department information systems has been terminated and the department-issued electronic devices that had been in Mr. Dietrich’s possession have been secured by police. The department is assisting law enforcement in their investigation in any way that we can.”
The statement noted Dietrich’s duties “do not include the handling of cash.”
Both the DOR and KPD statements emphasized there is not believed to be a link between the criminal activity and Dietrich’s job.
Estabrook told the Keizertimes Thursday afternoon the department learned of the investigation Thursday morning and Dietrich is “technically employed but without pay,” but that status could change depending on what formal charges are filed.
In the meantime, an internal investigation started immediately.
“When notified by law enforcement of the criminal investigation, (DOR) began an internal investigation of Mr. Dietrich’s work activities to identify any potentially inappropriate access to our information assets,” Estabrook said. “Our focus is safeguarding the confidential information with which the public has entrusted us.”
Estabrook said it’s too early to determine when such an investigation could be completed.
“It’s a high priority for us to learn if his access was used for unauthorized purposes,” Estabrook said.
Around 8:30 a.m. Oct. 9, KPD investigators went to the Dietrich house on Moneda as part of an ongoing investigation involving a criminal conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fraudulent currency.
Investigators have been working on the case the last three weeks, after getting information Dietrich may have been doing the manufacturing and distributing the currency from his home.
Dietrich was at work Wednesday when investigators contacted his wife at home. Dietrich agreed to return to his home to meet with investigators. During the interview, he refused to give consent to search his residence for evidence related to the investigation. The residence was cleared and an officer was posted at the location until a search warrant could be secured.
While the warrant was being prepared, investigators believe the Dietrichs entered their house via the back door, unbeknownst to the officer watching the front door.
According to the KPD, investigators believe the sole purpose for this was to tamper with evidence. Using a smart phone, investigators feel the couple remotely accessed the video security system to help them enter their home. Investigators believe Michael Dietrich tampered with and removed evidence, attempting to destroy, hide or conceal items.
Evidence of the attempted destruction was located and taken by investigators, who returned with an United States Secret Service employee around 5 p.m. Wednesday with the search warrant issued by the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for Marion County.
Investigators found numerous items of evidence related to the manufacturing of counterfeit currency and controlled substances statutes. Equipment seized included two computers, a printer, ink cartridges, a cutting board, paper stock, a small quantity of counterfeit U.S. $20 and $50 bills, methamphetamine, scales and packaging materials. Evidence was also found suggesting other counterfeit bills were shredded.
Melissa Dietrich was arrested and charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument. She was taken to the Marion County Correctional Facility but later released.
Dietrich’s vehicle was located and seized in north Keizer Wednesday evening. Investigators believe he has been producing, printing and distributing the counterfeit currency from his residence during the past year.
Anyone with additional information about this investigation is asked to contact KPD officer Chris Nelson at 503-390-3713 ext. 3489. The investigation is ongoing.