A former deputy sheriff is scheduled for trial in May on federal charges that he embezzled money from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and distributed drugs in three Central Kentucky counties.
Matthew Christian Brown pleaded not guilty Monday to a four-count federal indictment.
A jury trial is scheduled for May 13 in Frankfort before U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove.
Brown was a deputy with the Franklin sheriff's department from 2005 to 2012, and he was the department's lone narcotics detective from early 2011 to late 2012.
In December 2012, Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton confirmed that Kentucky State Police had opened an investigation involving Brown, who had resigned from the department a few days earlier.
The federal indictment charges that during his tenure with the sheriff's department, Brown used his position to steal department funds and misappropriate cash, jewelry and other items that he had seized from people under investigation by the department.
Brown "unlawfully misappropriated thousands of dollars worth of cash and other property under the care" of the Franklin sheriff's department, according to the indictment.
In one example, Brown seized narcotics, guns and about $32,000 in cash in August 2012 from someone identified only as "M.J." who was under investigation, the document stated. Brown allegedly kept about $14,000 of that money for himself, logging in the rest with the sheriff's department as evidence.
The indictment also describes Brown's investigation of another narcotics suspect identified as "W.J." Brown seized prescription drugs, Wal-Mart and Lowe's gift cards, and about $15,000 in cash. Brown kept more than $5,000 in cash for his own use, the indictment charges.
In addition, Brown distributed quantities of anabolic steroids, which are controlled substances, in Franklin, Fayette and Jessamine counties, according to the indictment.
In an interview Wednesday, Melton said he couldn't discuss what tipped off the sheriff's office to possible wrongdoing.
"We had checks and balances in place for this, and all I can tell you is that I had told the chief deputy to audit him (Brown) immediately, and upon the audit we did find missing funds or discrepancies, and I immediately called for an investigation from an outside agency," Melton said.
Melton said the missing money was returned to the sheriff's office.
"I can't control bad choices that people make, but I can assure you that I'm going to make the right choice and do the right thing every time," Melton said.
Melton faces a challenge in the May 24 Democratic primary from Joe Banta. Derrick Napier, a Frankfort patrol officer, is the Republican candidate in the November general election.
Asked whether he thought the opposition will try to make political points with the indictment, Melton said: "This is an isolated incident with an isolated employee and we did the right thing. We caught it, we found it and we addressed it. We didn't sweep it under the rug. I would hope our opponents have more class than to try to use this politically to discredit the men and women of the sheriff's office."
Herald-Leader staff writer Greg Kocher contributed to this story. Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @hlpublicsafety.