A Nye County Sheriff’s patrol sergeant was stealing thousands of dollars worth of prescription medication from his own department since at least October, according to formal charging documents filed against Sgt. Michael Horn on Friday.
Horn faces six criminal counts, including five felony charges, related to the thefts. The official charges the district attorney’s office will pursue are: oppression under color of office, a gross misdemeanor; misconduct of a public officer, a Category E felony; theft against a person 60 years of age or older, a Category C felony; theft, a Category B felony; possession of a controlled substance, a Category E felony; and, fraudulent appropriation of property, a Category D felony.
Released alongside the criminal complaint were previously unreleased police reports detailing the sting that landed Horn in jail on Jan. 25 and then on paid administrative leave.
New details emerging from the reports include that Horn allegedly pilfered nearly $24,000 worth of morphine sulfate pills from a cache of medication given to him to dispose of in October by a caregiver whose patient was entering hospice care. The patient died shortly afterward. Investigators found multiple pill bottles with her name on them inside Horn’s squad car when he was arrested.
Horn’s brazen attempt to use his badge and his authority as a sergeant to get his hands on narcotics while on duty eventually led to his downfall.
The main police report on the matter confirmed earlier reports detailing the investigation. The report states that one of Horn’s subordinates became suspicious of his behavior when he offered to take a call to pick up prescription drugs and dispose of them. The subordinate was in the area of the call and told him she would take it. After returning to her patrol duties, the subordinate told investigators that she was repeatedly called by Horn to come to the station and turn the drugs into him. She told him she would turn them into a locked evidence locker where an NCSO volunteer would dispose of them as per his normal duties. Horn “directed her that she would not do so, and would turn the pills over to him,” according to the report.
Before obeying that order, however, the subordinate reportedly took a break at her residence and from there called a Nye County Law Enforcement Association representative who also is a narcotics investigator. The narcotics officer told the subordinate she should obey Horn’s order, but not before marking two pill bottles, counting the pills inside them — 18 hydrocodone and 60 morphine pills — and then photographing them. The subordinate then placed the narcotics in an evidence bag, which she stapled shut several times, before delivering the package to Horn, who was evidently in a rush to get his hands on the drugs.
In a supplemental report filed by her as part of the investigation, the subordinate reported that Horn not only called her repeatedly but at one point texted her “OMG Gawd Chica! R U enroute yet =),” a message to which she did not respond.
Meanwhile, the narcotics officer called the NCSO volunteer in charge of the department’s prescription medication collection and disposal program. The volunteer described how he normally collects the drugs, locks them away until he has enough to take them to the county landfill for disposal. The volunteer mentioned that he had to alter the way he stored the drugs in the last year because some medication began turning up missing.
“(The volunteer) stated that he used to collect the prescriptions and keep them in his office until destruction, but that he noticed that pills were missing on occasion and that certain types of pills were disappearing, which prompted him to start holding the collected prescriptions in evidence. (The volunteer) also stated that Sgt. Horn had volunteered to help him with the prescription disposals about a year or more ago,” the report states.
When the narcotics officer later checked the supply room where Horn normally left medication for the volunteer to dispose of, the narcotics officer discovered the 18 hydrocodone pills were there, but the 60 morphine pills were not.
“After determining that the pills were missing and that Horn was the last person in possession of them, I contacted (another detective) by phone to confirm information I had heard in the past regarding Horn. (The detective) confirmed that a deputy in the past had brought concerns regarding prescription pills and Horn forward,” the report states, confirming earlier accounts that Horn’s alleged drug abuse was known to some of his co-workers.
The report continues by recounting how narcotics officers, with Sheriff Tony DeMeo’s blessing, waited for Horn to come on duty at 6 a.m. the following day. Search warrants were issued for his car, home, person and cell phone. Instead of showing up to the station on time, however, Horn answered a call with two other deputies at an elderly woman’s home first. The woman called police and asked that they respond to her home because she believed an intruder was present. No intruder was located, and before clearing the call, Horn convinced the woman to give up her prescription medication. He told her they were expired, but police later learned that was a ruse, that in fact the woman had just filled her prescription 10 days earlier.
Those pills along with the 60 stolen morphine pills were later discovered by police. In fact, a second investigation was open after numerous pill bottles, some with the names scratched off, were found in Horn’s squad car. That investigation led police to the caregiver for a woman named Barbara Klein-Remlinger. According to a supplemental police report, authorities recovered $23,680 worth of pilfered pills from Horn’s squad car after his arrest, mostly hundreds of morphine sulfate pills. These were originally part of a cache of medication given to Horn in October that turned up later — apparently with the morphine missing — in the NCSO’s supply room.
The caregiver told police she personally called Horn but had no idea he was stealing the medication.
A check of Horn’s cell phone did not indicate he was selling the pills. But, after he was arrested and released on his own recognizance pending admission to an in-patient facility — the disgraced deputy is currently still home collecting a county paycheck six weeks later — at least one text message he sent to a subordinate suggests he was ruminating on how to cover his tracks. First he called a deputy who was with him the day he was arrested, when Horn responded to the elderly victim’s house. When the deputy didn’t answer his phone, Horn sent a text from his personal email address.
“Hey brohaim. When u get a moment call me pls,” the text reads. “Hey bro I just wanted to give you a heads up I kinda threw you under the bus regarding that call we went on yesterday (the day of Horn’s arrest), cause you were there when the lady said that she wanted me to take her expired medication, right?”
The deputy reported in a supplemental report that he responded: “All I heard was someone say something about expired meds and saw her hand you the bottle of pills.”
Horn responded by urging the deputy to say something on his behalf if his memory changed, because it could “really help out.”
It was unclear by press time when Horn will make his first court appearance.
Though the police reports attached to the criminal complaint name the deputies involved in Horn’s downfall, the Pahrump Valley Times has chosen to withhold those names for now.
Last week the newspaper obtained an internal memorandum sent to the sheriff’s office rank and file threatening them with disciplinary action, up to and including termination, should they be caught revealing any information about investigations or personnel issues to the newspaper. DeMeo even went so far as to contact a local weekly tabloid owned by a convicted felon, providing a reporter there a comment suggesting that the PVT had fabricated information in a previous story regarding Horn’s drug problems. DeMeo denied ever making such a statement when reached by the PVT Thursday.
The PVT stands by its reporting.