BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An all-out search for a missing Alabama organized crime specialist led to Las Vegas, where the decorated officer was arrested and accused of staging his disappearance to cover up the theft of $2,500 from his department, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal marshals caught up with Sgt. Faron White in a Hampton Inn hotel lobby Monday night, three days after he was last seen working late in his Decatur office. The 48-year-old has been charged with theft.
Also arrested was 29-year-old Sarah Richardson, who authorities say helped White get to Las Vegas.
White's family reported him missing Saturday morning after he didn't return from work Friday. Detectives found evidence of a struggle in his office and for days, search crews scoured areas around the Tennessee River, looking for signs of Decatur's 2007 officer of the year.
But authorities now believe it was all a ruse.
The arrest was all the talk at a convenience store down a twisting, two-lane road from White's home in Falkville, south of Decatur in northern Alabama.
"I've never heard anything bad about him until this," said Doug Farr.
Like others, Farr couldn't understand why a respected, ranking police officer would allegedly stage his own disappearance seemingly for $2,500.
"It doesn't make sense. There's something more involved than that," said Farr.
Police didn't release details of the relationship between Richardson and White, who lives in Falkville and is married with three children. Richardson was arrested at her home in Decatur and is being held on $2,500 bond, charged with hindering prosecution.
White's wife, Shelly, declined comment Tuesday.
White led the Decatur's organized crime unit and the American Legion named him Decatur's officer of the year for 2007.
He joined the Decatur Police Department in November 1986, working in the jail before becoming a police officer. The Legion noted when it honored White that his unit was responsible for 354 arrests and seizing more than $100,000 worth of cash, weapons and property from drug dealers.
Federal marshals in Las Vegas said White was being held as a fugitive without bail pending an extradition hearing Thursday. A police spokeswoman said it was not immediately clear if White had a lawyer. In Decatur, White's bond was set at $20,000.
Richardson was in the Decatur city jail and there was no indication she had a lawyer. Additional charges are possible against both.
Roxanna Lea Irwin, chief deputy U.S. Marshal in Las Vegas, said she did not know what White was doing in Nevada or how long he had been in Las Vegas.
"This is another example of someone feeling they can hide in Las Vegas," Irwin said, "but we're able to locate them working together with our local partners."
Irwin said she thought investigators learned where White was after confronting Richardson in Decatur. White didn't put up a struggle.
"We actually got him pretty quickly," Irwin said.