Investigators with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office says that Deputy Michael McNeely was responsible for covering up sex crimes against children and failing to properly investigate the charges.
It's claimed that 24 of a total of 35 cases assigned to Deputy McNeely were never followed through with proper investigating, and there's potential that McNeely was outright protecting the individuals who were suspects in those crimes.
Out of those cases in which were assigned to Deputy McNeely it's believed that the majority were involving high profile offenders, involved in sex crimes against children.
One of those cases which wasn't properly investigated was the case of a fifteen year old who was waiting in line with her parents at a grocery store.
The suspect, a millionaire real estate developer, had admitted to authorities that he actually took his cell phone and stuck it under the girl's skirt, filming her underwear.
Several witnesses in that case saw the entire event unfold and told the girl and her parents. Two years passed by and the phone from the suspect was never seized by police so no video evidence could be compiled for prosecution.
However, due to McNeely’s failure to charge the suspect nothing ever came of the case, even though the perpetrator had admitted to being responsible.
Upon examination of the records in that case it was determined that McNeely not only had a full confession but has witnessed video surveillance of the entire crime but didn't pursue charges.
Such a case led new investigators last year who were handed McNeely’s case files to believe there was potential he was covering up the crimes, possibly for profit, although that could never be proved.
What finally brought Deputy McNeely under investigation from internal affairs was another case where a mother had contacted law enforcement to report that her 30 year old neighbor was soliciting sex from her young daughter who was a minor.
The mother began contacting other detectives after McNeely refused to return phone calls to her about the high profile neighbor who at this time remains unnamed, in which she claimed the Deputy was intentionally avoiding the case.
Upon pressure from the rest of the department McNeely claimed that he never received any messages from the woman but that he did try and call her back multiple times.
That claim was able to be proven a lie however as phone records showed that McNeely not only received the messages but had deleted at least four of them and there was never any outgoing calls back to her.
Internal Affairs investigators wrote that “McNeely had not documented anything in this case” for the period of several months.
When Deputy McNeely’s supervisor inquired to him about the case he said he was unable to reach the mother and that was the reason for the stall.
“This explanation to his supervisor was untruthful," investigators wrote while recording their results after looking into the case.
Another case that was fumbled involved a massive pedophile accused of having over one hundred thousand child pornography images.
During that case McNeely testified incorrect information which caused the prosecution to stumble, and could have led to the man's exoneration even after the images were found on the 87 year old man's computer.
McNeely told local media during a phone interview that he made "a couple mistakes," but that he “wasn't a liar” and that his mistakes didn't affect the outcome of case.
McNeely, who moved out of the state from his Lehigh Acres home in June, said his dismissal was “extremely disheartening.” He said the Sheriff’s Office investigators “made me out to be a liar” when that wasn’t the case.
He said he disagreed with the investigator's findings and pointed to his accomplishments over the course of his career.
"It's a humiliation that I live with every day," he said. "I lost a career that I loved."
The Sheriff's Office has so far declined to comment after McNeely’s termination on the cases which were mishandled by their department or what will now become of them, but once the allegations were first made they had said they would pursue them if they had the evidence.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said that although some of those cases lack supplemental reports, none of them fall outside a statute of limitations.
“If evidence can be found proving the crime and who committed the crime, we can likely still prosecute the case,” she wrote in an email, adding that some of the cases were not criminal.
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