Former California police chief charged with stealing, forgery

Former California Police Chief Michael Ward has been charged with stealing and forgery regarding explosives. (File)

The former police chief of California has been charged in Moniteau County Circuit Court with two counts of stealing and one count of forgery regarding explosives, according to court documents.

Michael Ward was charged Wednesday morning with the charges, which relate to "Stealing -- Firearm/Explosive Weapon/Ammonium Nitrate."

Ward is accused of purchasing weapons and accessories with city funds and then selling them for personal cash. Investigators also said he forged time sheets for an officer with whom he had an intimate relationship.

According to court records filed in the case, investigators with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Ward purchased weapons and accessories with the funds from the California Police Department, but some of that equipment went missing. Investigators said Ward sold some of the weapons to River City Pawn and Gun in Jefferson City. A weapon and sight accessory were also sold to another officer's family member. Ward apparently attempted to purchase back the weapon from the family member.

An officer with the department told highway patrol investigators Ward told him he was selling his personal weapons so he could purchase a fence for Audrey Laczko, a woman with whom he had a relationship and also worked for the department. Investigators said Ward forged time sheets for the female officer when she took medical leave. The woman went on medical leave in July, but time sheets apparently reflected she was working 40 hours a week. A doctors note showed she did not return from leave until September of 2017.

Ward has already resigned his position as Police Chief. California Mayor Norris Gerhart said the resignation turned in May 3 was effective immediately, and Ward gave no reason for his resignation.

Gerhart said Ward had served his position for approximately five years.

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