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A Huntington Beach police detective was charged Thursday with stealing cash that his co-workers collected for a colleague’s retirement gift.

Mario Ricci, 48, of Los Angeles, is charged with a misdemeanor count of petty theft, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.

The prosecutor declined to say how much cash was allegedly taken, but Ricci’s attorney, Ed Welbourn, said the case involves “a small amount of money. We’re talking like a hundred bucks.”

Welbourn said his client “maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court.”

Ricci has been on the force for 17 years, and a detective for 11, Welbourn said.

“He’s been a very proud and hard-working officer for the city, and he’s surprised by these allegations,” Welbourn said.

Between Dec. 8-15, Ricci took cash from an envelope left out for donations that would go toward the gift, Zimmon alleged.

Other officers noticed on Dec. 8 that some of the cash was missing, so they investigated and documented the denominations of the money and the serial numbers of bills remaining in the envelope, the prosecutor said.

As Ricci was leaving the department’s headquarters on Dec. 15, he was confronted by investigators and was allegedly found to be in possession of the bills that were noted, according to Zimmon.

Police Chief Robert Handy said Ricci was placed on administrative leave “when the investigation revealed he was a suspect. He remains on administrative leave pending the completion of a personnel investigation.”

The department issued the following statement on its Facebook page:

“The Huntington Beach Police Department strives for the full trust and confidence of the community we serve. We hold all our employees to a high standard of ethics and integrity, and are truly saddened by this incident.”

Ricci, who is scheduled to be arraigned on March 6 at the West Justice Center, could face up to six months in jail if convicted.

–City News Service

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