OLYMPIA — The state Auditor’s Office confirmed findings that drug money was likely miscounted by law enforcement during an April drug bust due to improper procedure, resulting in a $20,000 discrepancy.

On April 3, authorities raided a property on the 800 block of Malaga-Alcoa Highway, locating a large amount of cash and a kilogram of cocaine. An initial count showed $88,302; however, multiple recounts in following days showed $68,462, the auditor’s report said.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office on April 10 asked for outside agencies to investigate the incident, and a Thurston County detective and another from Grays Harbor County undertook the task.

The auditor’s office reviewed investigation materials collected by detectives from Thurston County and Grays Harbor County sheriffs' offices and released its report Thursday.

The report said Columbia River Drug Task Force cash handling policies require two employees to count all money exceeding $500 and both must initial the evidence bag. That did not happen.

According to the auditor’s report, a Chelan County deputy and an officer from a separate agency were responsible for counting cash found at the scene, but they did not formally document their counts. A second Chelan County deputy then recorded total count information: $88,302.

Following the seizure, the cash was transported into evidence at a Columbia River Drug Task Force facility.

During a recount on April 5, a deputy recounted the cash and found the total amount was $68,462, the report said.

The cash was recounted again on April 9 by the sheriff’s office and then again April 17 by the detectives from Thurston and Grays Harbor counties. Total cash: $68,462.

In their month-long investigation of the incident, no one acknowledged taking cash, and most officers thought that because cash handling procedures were not properly followed, “the discrepancy was due to a documentation error and cash was not really missing,” the report said.

As a result of the incident, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office and Drug Task Force added new counting policies, purchased a mobile cash counter and trained officers directly involved in the miscount in proper counting policy.

Two men arrested during the search and seizure were convicted of drug charges in Chelan County Superior Court.

Cesar Javier Mora Sr., who owned the property where the drugs and cash were housed, was sentenced in May to a year and a day in prison after he pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and alien in possession of a firearm.

José Carmen Valadez pleaded guilty Monday in Chelan County Superior Court to four counts of unlawful delivery of cocaine. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Pete O’Cain: 664-7152

ocain@wenatcheeworld.com or

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