A courthouse employee with sticky fingers is under arrest for allegedly stealing money from her co-workers, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said.
Melody Morales Montijo, 40, of Porterville was arrested at her home Thursday afternoon. She is on paid administrative leave.
Detectives set up a sting operation after learning of an alleged pattern of crimes.
In May, employees at the South County Justice Center courthouse in Porterville reported missing money from their personal belongings at or near their work stations. Between May and August, $1,067 was stolen from several victims.
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Detectives used bait money and set up covert equipment that sprays Smartwater — obtained from the Agricultural Crimes Unit — on whoever might take the bait money.
Smartwater is used to mark belongings and catch thieves. It is normally invisible but shows up under a special light.
When detectives arrested Montijo, Smartwater was found on her body and the clothes she was wearing at the time the money went missing. She confessed and was booked into the county jail without incident.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Richard Ramirez at the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office via telephone at 800-808-0488 or anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text or voicemail at 559-725-4194.