Once again, SmartWater played an integral role in the capture of a prolific thief in Tulare County, California. This being the sixth recent arrest resulting from the use of this cutting-edge technology.
After a number of Tulare County Superior Court employees started to notice money missing from their purses and wallets in late May, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office were called in to investigate.
“We’ve never had a problem like this in the past,” said Tulare County Superior Court Presiding Judge Brett Hillman. “I think employees do feel secure here, I guess that’s why they left their property available.”
In order to catch the culprit, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office turned to SmartWater forensic technology – an invisible and traceable liquid that has already been used to mark hundreds of pieces of agricultural equipment and led to the arrest of a handful of ag thieves in the county.
Used alongside other sophisticated surveillance equipment, SmartWater was promptly applied to a bundle of ‘bait cash’ with a view to catching the offender out.
WATCH – Tulare Sheriff uses SmartWater to catch court employee who stole $1,000
It wasn’t long before one Melody Montijo, an employee of 12-months, was caught stealing the cash on surveillance.
The sheriff’s office says Montijo then took it and deposited it into an ATM, which detectives later recovered through a search warrant.
Montijo was promptly scanned using an ultraviolet (UV) light and traces of SmartWater, which glows yellow-green under UV light, were found on her body.
Subsequent analysis found that the forensic code, unique to each bottle of SmartWater traceable liquid, was a match for the liquid applied to the cash.
“We’re disappointed that a court employee was implicated but we’re certainly grateful to the county sheriff for pursuing their investigation and locating a suspect,” Hillman said. “It’s hard on employee morale when thefts are going on within the courthouse in employee areas.”
Montijo is accused of stealing more than $1,000.
The sheriff’s office says she also confessed to the series of crimes.
Montijo is currently out on bail but has been placed on administrative leave from her job.