They were arraigned on charges that they allegedly stole $6,000 in marked bills planted during an FBI public corruption investigation.
Two high-ranking Ramsey County Sheriff's employees were arraigned today on charges that they allegedly stole $6,000 in marked bills planted during an FBI public corruption investigation.
Mark Naylon, 48, and Inspector Timothy Rehak, 47, pleaded not guilty and were released on $25,000 bond.
They each face eight counts of fraud and theft in connection with two undercover "integrity'' investigations that began in November 2004. The so-called integrity tests were designed to find out whether the two law-enforcement officials would steal money that had been planted by FBI agents -- in a hotel room and, later, in a marked car.
Rehak and Naylon later became concerned that they had been targeted in an integrity test and turned in the money, according to the indictment.
Attorneys for the two men said Wednesday that their clients didn't steal any money.
Federal authorities decided to conduct the integrity tests after repeated complaints from local law-enforcement officials that Naylon had interfered in drug and fencing investigations.
In November 2004, FBI agents planted $13,500 in marked bills in a bag in a room in the Kelly Inn in St. Paul. Then they secretly videotaped Naylon and Rehak entering the room and pocketing $6,000 they found in the bag, according to the indictment and federal sources. They are shown on tape taking the money while another deputy was in the hotel room's bathroom.
When the deputy returned to join the pair, Rehak pulled the remaining $7,500 from the bag and inventoried the cash as the only amount that he had recovered, the indictment said.
Naylon and Rehak later became wary that they had been set up and placed the $6,000 in the sheriff's office property room, records showed.
In July 2005, the FBI conducted a second integrity test aimed at the two men. This time, agents placed a large amount of money in a car. An informant working for the FBI called Rehak and allegedly tipped him off to the car's whereabouts and told him that drugs and money were hidden in the vehicle, according to the indictment.
Hours later, the men entered the vehicle and searched it. They found a bag of money in the trunk but no drugs, according to the indictment.
"At that moment, the defendants disbelieved that a drug trafficker would stash a large amount of currency inside a vehicle,'' the indictment reads. "The defendants both knew they were the subject of a second integrity test, and the defendants both knew they were under surveillance.''
The men didn't take the money they had found and neither of them reported the incident, authorities said.
Naylon and Rehak were not available for comment Wednesday. But both of their attorneys defended their clients vehemently.
"They're innocent, they're good people, honest cops,'' said attorney Paul Rogosheske, who represents Naylon. Rogosheske said several months ago that the allegations were a misunderstanding, stemming from a practical joke played on another officer who participated in the first search.
Kevin Short, Rehak's attorney, said he looked forward to going to trial to knock down the government's accusations. "My client is, in fact, 100 percent innocent of these charges and we'll prove it at trial.''
Naylon, a former labor union leader in Minneapolis, was the public information officer for Ramsey County and was allowed by Sheriff Bob Fletcher to take part in highly sensitive criminal investigations despite not holding a peace officer's license. He was the best man in Fletcher's 2004 wedding and worked closely on Fletcher's reelection campaign. He has been on paid leave since June 2007.
Fletcher hired Rehak, a 20-year St. Paul police veteran, in early 2007. The officer began work one day before FBI agents seized Naylon's office computer files.
Fletcher said he didn't know of the allegations against Rehak until that raid, but several days later, the sheriff defended his new hire.
"Even with what I now know, I would not have changed the process we went through,'' he told the Star Tribune.
Rehak, who had a long-standing reputation as a tough street officer and was St. Paul's Officer of the Year in 1995, also had been reprimanded twice for improper actions in his last year with the St. Paul Department.
After joining the Sheriff's Department, he worked closely with Naylon in the special investigation unit. Rehak is a close friend of Fletcher's dating back to when both men worked together as St. Paul officers.
Rehak has been on paid leave since last summer.
Fletcher declined to be interviewed Wednesday, but had praised both men after the allegations first surfaced, including holding a news conference to contend that all the money had been accounted for within a day of the search.
In a written statement released Wednesday, he said, "Both men have long histories of helping to put criminals in jail. These charges are serious, however, like any citizen they deserve an opportunity to have an impartial trial of the facts.''
Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745