The case of a theft at a West Virginia casino in May 2021, allegedly by an off-duty state police officer, is part of an extensive investigation into several incidents involving West Virginia State Police.
The investigation stems from a five-page anonymous letter sent in February to prominent West Virginia lawmakers, including Gov. Jim Justice and also AG Patrick Morrisey. The letter outlines serious allegations, including of sexual assaults, thefts, and damage to state-owned property at the police academy. The investigation should take two or three months.
Fallout from the letter included the resignation of Superintendent Col. Jan Cahill from the WVSP on March 20.
Video shows theft at Mardi Gras Casino, report states
West Virginia has five brick-and-mortar casinos across the state. There are currently seven West Virginia online casinos, with another set to go online soon in the Mountain State.
Last month, 13News submitted a FOIA request, leading to the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security releasing a redacted incident report from Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Nitro concerning a theft at the casino in May 2021.
According to the report, a patron of the casino approached the security manager and said he was missing a bank envelope with $731 in it. He said it was taken from the slot machine he was playing on after he got up to get a beverage. The casino reviewed surveillance footage. It showed a man, accompanied by a woman, picking up the envelope and leaving the casino.
The man who took the envelope was an off-duty WVSP captain, according to the report. A person working on behalf of the casino was able to track down the captain, the report said. The casino recovered the money and returned it to the man who’d lost it. No charges were filed against the captain. Last month, Justice’s office released video footage of the theft.
The anonymous letter said the WVSP covered up the incident. Cahil said that when he confronted the captain in question, he immediately retired. Justice’s office confirmed the retirement.
There’s currently an internal investigation involving another WVSP trooper. The trooper assigned to the casino would have had information about the theft. Reportedly, the trooper failed to report the incident or notify their superiors.
Theft and alleged coverup not the only controversy facing WVSP
The WVSP faces more allegations beyond that of the casino theft’s coverup. A former WVSP trooper who has since died supposedly put a hidden camera in the women’s locker room at the state police headquarters to record video. When a group of troopers found the flash drive containing the video, they threw the drive on the ground and stomped on it, destroying the evidence, according to the letter.
On Feb. 24, authorities charged Joseph Comer of the WVSP with domestic battery and felony strangulation. According to a criminal complaint from Ritchie County Magistrate Court, Comer allegedly strangled a woman during a scheduled child exchange on Dec. 5, 2022. A week later, he allegedly struck her in the head with a child’s cup at the same location. Both incidents resulted in visible injuries.
Other allegations against the WVSP include sexual assaults, damage to state property, misuse of taxpayer funds, and troopers billing for overtime hours that were not actually worked.
After receiving a report on the allegations, Justice called it “incomplete.” The governor has asked interim Superintendent Jack Chambers to continue the investigations.