Paradise Valley police are investigating whether the town’s former head fleet technician illegally sold town property for profit through eBay, an Internet auction company.
John Tufarelli, a Paradise Valley employee of 15 years who was named "employee of the year" just eight months ago, resigned on July 29, city records show. No reason is listed.
But a search warrant, permitting police to seize the computer Paradise Valley issued Tufarelli, details allegations that the technician had been selling items owned by the police department on his personal eBay account.
Investigators have so far found that Tufarelli auctioned blue and red strobe lights, police taillight flashers and a police raincoat, the warrant states.
Tufarelli said on Tuesday the items he sold on eBay had been thrown out and were of no value to Paradise Valley.
"Basically, there were a few items that were removed from the trash," he said.
During the past year, Paradise Valley has sold surplus vehicles and other equipment on eBay. Tufarelli — who said he suggested the practice — was responsible for the online sale of those items. Questions from interested eBay users were directed to his personal e-mail account, according to Tufarelli and town officials.
In all, Tufarelli’s personal eBay account lists 587 transactions during the past three years.
While the vast majority of transaction records provide what item was sold, the winning bid and who purchased it, 50 of them are listed as "private" and offer no information.
Police do not yet know how many transactions involving town property took place.
The investigation will likely take months to complete, said Lt. Alan Laitsch, a Paradise Valley police spokesman.
Police have turned over the hard drive from Tufarelli’s work computer to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, whose forensic experts will examine the device, the warrant states.
Its contents might yield details about those transactions.
An eBay security official told police that users typically mark transactions involving pornography or other adult materials as private, the warrant states.
Tufarelli said he uses it for that purpose as well.
"When I would sell to the mature audience, I would put what’s called a ‘private sale.’ It’s kinda like getting the package in the mail and nobody knows what it is," Tufarelli said. "Those items have nothing to do with the town."
The warrant shows police found one of the private transactions was for strobe lights "of the type, style and manufacture" used by the town."
Town Manager Tom Martinsen declined comment Tuesday.
Tufarelli’s personnel file shows that he began working for the town in 1990, doing street maintenance for about $18,000 a year.
He worked his way up, earning praise from residents and colleagues for his hard work.
At the time of his resignation, Tufarelli’s annual salary was more than $48,000.
In December, he received the Mary Ann Brines Exceptional Performance Award, recognizing him as employee of the year.
Police are working to determine whether Tufarelli committed fraud, forgery, theft, financial crimes or computer crimes in selling the town property, the warrant states.
"By the time we get finished with this, this will be a very, very lengthy investigation. It will involve numerous subpoenas and search warrants," he said. "It’s really a ways off before we, you know, have anything that’s gonna lead us in any real direction."