A former Tampa police corporal was sentenced Thursday to five years of probation, with eight months of home confinement, for stealing fraudulent tax refund checks from an evidence room.
Jeanette Hevel gave an emotional apology for her actions, which ended a 27-year law enforcement career and cost her her pension.
"I had the opportunity to work for the best police department in the United States of America," Hevel said, weeping. She said she always wanted to be a police officer. "What I did was wrong. There's no excuse."
She said her actions shouldn't reflect on the rest of the department. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't hate myself for what I did," she said. "I was so proud to put that uniform on. … Some have forgiven me; a lot haven't. To this day, I haven't been able to forgive myself."
Hevel was given credit for cooperating with the prosecution, providing information about other possible crimes. Her lawyer, Mark O'Brien, suggested she may have given information about at least one other police officer, saying the targets were "not just civilian."
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington also ordered Hevel to perform 1,000 hours of community service work and pay more than $100,000 in restitution.
The judge said she will consider ending the probation after three years if Hevel finishes her community service hours and makes a "significant dent" in the restitution, which is to go to the Internal Revenue Service.
O'Brien told the court in a sentencing memorandum that Hevel stole the checks to pay for a lawyer to divorce her cheating husband, who was also a police officer.
Assistant Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told Covington, "This is a blemish on all law enforcement throughout the nation, and it's something the Tampa Police Department takes very seriously."