In April 2018, Phoenix police Officer Michael Maya and his wife, Autumn Maya, were arrested for theft, money laundering, and conspiracy, among other charges.
The criminal counts later were dropped against the officer, and he's still on the force. But he still faces the possibility that he'll be stripped of his police officer certification.
According to the Department of Public Safety, Autumn Maya stole guns and body cameras and sold them to pawn shops while she was employed by the state Department of Economic Security.
Investigators found that Michael Maya had accompanied her to the pawn shop on at least one occasion. While Michael Maya told cops he knew his wife had pawned items, he claimed he was unaware that she had pawned off state-owned firearms.
Still, Michael Maya was accused of "actively participating in the ongoing conspiracy to traffic stolen state property” and was booked into Maricopa County Jail on April 4 last year on suspicion of trafficking stolen property, money laundering, and conspiracy.
At the time, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department said proceedings to terminate Maya were underway.
Since then, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office dropped all charges against him.
Yet Maya's peace officer certification remains in jeopardy. At last month's Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board meeting in Phoenix, AZPOST certification compliance specialist Lori Wait stated that there were two incidents that formed the basis of the charges against Michael Maya.
In one instance, payroll checks mailed to Michael Maya that were to be distributed to officers who had worked off-duty (since he was the coordinator for off-duty work) were stolen by Autumn Maya from the residence. Once Michael Maya discovered his wife had cashed the checks, Wait said, he obtained cashier's checks and provided the proper amount of money to the officers whose checks were stolen.
Those officers declined to aid in prosecution against their fellow officer.
In another instance cited by Wait, Michael Maya paid a pawn shop to return his wife's DES-owned firearms.
He told investigators he didn't believe he had committed any crimes but instead viewed these incidents as civil matters that he had remedied.
On January 19, 2019, the prosecutor's office, (at the time headed up by Bill Montgomery, now a state Supreme Court justice), declined prosecution on Michael Maya, stating his actions didn't rise to a criminal level.
But in June, the Phoenix Police Department sustained agency policy violations, finding that Michael Maya failed to report or take action relevant to his wife's allegedly felonious conduct. He received an 80-hour suspension without pay, and remains employed by the department.
Phoenix police did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification as to why Michael Maya had ultimately been suspended, not terminated, as the department initially stated he would be.
At the November 20 meeting, the AZPOST unanimously passed a motion to initiate proceedings against Michael Maya's peace officer certification, meaning they may decide to revoke his peace officer certification after a review. Decertification means he'd be ineligible to become a police officer again in Arizona.
The criminal investigation into the Mayas began in November 2017 after a DES employee found 133 pieces of neatly trimmed paper stuffed into a sealed envelope. The envelope, which was locked in a safe in the DES office, was supposed to have $3,488 in cash inside to be used for undercover operations. Suspecting theft, DES officials contacted DPS about the strange find.
“AZDPS immediately launched an investigation into the allegations and discovered several other criminal activities in which Autumn Vasquez Maya is alleged to have stolen over $3,000 in U.S currency, numerous firearms [primarily handguns] and police body cameras from DES,” DPS stated. “Maya pawned the stolen items at various pawn shops around the valley.”
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According to DPS, Autumn Maya had access to the safe because she audited firearms that were kept there. She had also left fingerprints on a piece of tape on the envelope.
Ultimately, police determined Autumn Maya pawned five guns at pawn shops around the Valley between May 5, 2017, and October 26, 2017. She also had pawned 17 body-worn cameras that she stole from the state and allegedly sold under the moniker Thor Security Services LLC, a company that does not exist.
Autumn Maya was fired from DES last year soon after her arrest. She's been charged with theft, fraudulent schemes, forgery, trafficking stolen property, money laundering, and conspiracy.
She was released on her own recognizance. The criminal case against her remains ongoing.