ColumbiaPaOnline.com requested this press release, and was given permission to post it on the site.
For: Immediate Release Date: March 07, 2007
From: Michael L. Landis, Chief County Detective
On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, the proprietor of a computer repair shop in Columbia, PA contacted the Office of the District Attorney and arranged to turn over a personal computer that he believed contained confidential information originating with the Columbia Borough Police Department. The gentleman reported that he had taken the computer in trade for the purchase of a used computer system by Robert E. Warfel, Jr., a Columbia resident.
An investigation conducted by Lancaster County Detectives determined that the computer was an obsolete computer taken out of service at the Columbia Borough Police station in July 2004. The shop owner credited Mr. Warfel $25.00 for the computer toward his purchase of the used system. Detectives learned that the computer had been given to Mr. Warfel by the girlfriend of Sergeant William L. Meyers, a member of the Columbia Borough Police Department. This computer had little value. Investigators learned that Sergeant Meyers has donated personal equipment to the police department to use that had far greater value, in one case having a personal laptop computer refurbished and given to investigators to use to take statements. Sergeant Meyers owns a personal computer that is newer and superior in quality to the police department computer. Thus there was little motive for Sergeant Meyers to take the computer for his own personal benefit.
Sergeant Meyers was interviewed by detectives and stated that he had taken the computer from the Columbia Borough Police Department to his home in order to review the contents of the computer and remove and transfer relevant files at his leisure. Sergeant Meyers stated that he took the computer home sometime in July 2006, but did not have time to work with the computer and forgot about it. Sergeant Meyers told detectives that his girlfriend inadvertently gave the computer to Mr. Warfel, a tenant in a property Meyers owns, believing it was an old computer that Meyers had previously used. Mr. Meyers stated that until he was approached by someone, editor of some web site, he had no idea the computer had left his home. Mr. Meyers stated that it was always his intent to return the computer to the police station when he was finished with it.
A forensic examination of the computer revealed that it was not used after the time that Sergeant Meyers states he took it to his home, with the exception of the evening of December 31, 2006. It was found that this was when Mr. Warfel had possession of the computer and first used it in an attempt to install a high speed Internet connection. This further supports the contention of Sergeant Meyers that he had no intent to utilize the computer for his own personal use.
In order to prove the crime of Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition, 18 Pa.C.S.A. 3921, the Commonwealth would have to prove Sergeant Meyers exercised unlawful control over the computer with the intent to deprive the Borough of the computer. The investigation has failed to find that requisite intent on the part of Sergeant Meyers. While there is no doubt that the Sergeant took the computer from the police station without asking permission, he holds supervisory rank essentially making him second in command and affording him a degree of discretion in that regard.
The forensic examination found files on the computer that would constitute criminal history and protected information under the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA), 18 Pa.C.S.A. 9101. The examination, however, found no files that contained information that could compromise the security of other computer systems, or investigations. There are no criminal penalties provided for under CHRIA and enforcement of the Act through civil and administrative action is the responsibility of the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The Office of the Attorney General has been notified of the investigation.
The investigation of this matter has failed to find grounds for filing criminal charges against anyone involved. Issues relating to inappropriate material found on the computer or violations of any policies or procedures of the police department or Borough are personnel issues for Borough and police officials to address. The issue related to the unauthorized accessing of CHRIA information on the computer has been referred to the solicitor for Columbia Borough. The Office of the District Attorney considers this matter closed.