An investigator with the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner has been charged with stealing property from deceased individuals during the course of his job, authorities announced on Wednesday.
Surveillance cameras captured 34-year-old Adrian Muñoz, a resident of L.A. who has worked for the Medical Examiner’s Office since 2018, take a gold crucifix off the neck of a deceased man and place it in his medical bag on Jan. 6.
The victim, a warehouse worker, suffered a heart attack and died at his job in South L.A. Muñoz was assigned to investigate the death. After he took the gold crucifix, Muñoz did not return the item, nor did he document it in the property receipt, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Months later, rare antique coins with a receipt in the name of another man discovered dead on Nov. 12, whose case Muñoz had handled, were found in the 34-year-old’s desk and cubicle, the release noted.
“An investigator with the Medical Examiner’s Office holds a position of immense trust and responsibility,” L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said. “Their role is not just to unravel the cause of death or help solve potential crimes but also to provide closure and peace to grieving family members. The theft of items, potential family heirlooms and sentimental pieces from the deceased, not only violates this trust but desecrates the memory of a loved one. It’s a profound betrayal of the very essence of the role and the solemn duty owed to both the deceased and their bereaved families.”
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Odey Ukpo said his department “takes these allegations very seriously” and that they are helping law enforcement and the DA’s office with the ongoing investigation.
Muñoz has been charged with one felony count of grand theft of property and one misdemeanor count of petty theft of property. His arraignment will be set for a later date.
The case is being prosecuted by LADA’s Justice System Integrity Division and is being investigated by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The Department of Medical Examiner in L.A. County was formerly referred to as the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
Anyone with information about this investigation is encouraged to contact L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or leave tips online at L.A. Crime Stoppers.