3 On Your Side: Jail Sgt. resigns amid food card theft probe
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Two and one-half weeks after serving a sentence for a probation violation, Gregory Sciance says he feels both vindicated, and frustrated.
"The person who did this to me was wrong, and caught 'em, that's good," he says. "But I still don't have my food debit card back."
Monday, 3 On Your Side reported that Internal Affairs detectives launched an investigation, after Sciance reported that his USDA food card was missing, and that somebody had used it fraudulently while he was incarcerated.
Tuesday, Sgt. Wanda J. Smith resigned as a Supervisor in the Booking Area of the Hamilton County Jail.
"I cannot go into the specifics of what the investigation found," Sheriff Jim Hammond told 3 On Your Side in a telephone interview Thanksgiving Day. "The booking area and jail have a number of surveillance cameras."
Sciance says investigators told them they also have surveillance video from two of the three stores where, he maintains, his food card was used fraudulently.
Monday, Sciance told us that his own 'backtracking', using a telephone log-in to track usage, had determined that the card paid for groceries at the Walmart SuperCenter in Dunlap, September 10, 13 and 22. The total bill: $258.68.
He also believes the card was used at one of Dunlap's Dollar General Stores; twice on September 13, and again October 26. Total bill: $67.25.
"All you need to change the PIN (personal identification number) is my Social Security number," Sciance says. "Key that in you're good to go."
"The last use was the Dollar Tree in Soddy Daisy on October 27, but they've told me the camera wasn't working there," Sciance says.
Former Sgt. Smith makes her home in Dunlap. She hasn't answered or returned calls to offer her side of the story. A lady who answered the door at her house Thanksgiving Day told 3 On Your Side that Smith was not at home, and asked that the family's privacy be respected during the holidays.
Sciance expects he'll be taking all of his meals at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen until Tennessee's Department of Human Services verifies his claim.
"You have to go through all the paperwork, you have to investigate this," he says. "They're treating me as if I did the theft."
"The investigation remains open," Sheriff Hammond told 3 On Your Side. "We'll be handing our findings over to the Grand Jury."
"I did wrong, I went to jail," Sciance says. "I served all my time. She's no better than me. She should do the same thing."
Should the grand jury return a misdemeanor theft charge, a conviction could net Smith 11 months, 29 days in jail, according to Robin Flores, a defense attorney who handles similar cases.
But should Smith face charges for fraudulent use of a credit card, or for forgery; each count is a Class D felony under Tennessee law. Conviction could carry 2-4 years in prison, for each count.
Complicating matters; the card in question is connected to the USDA's federal food stamp program. 3 On Your Side has been unable to reach the USDA, or United States Attorney Bill Killian, federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Tennessee, as federal offices are on holiday.