Former TPD sergeant takes plea deal in fraud case

- Disgraced Tampa Police Sergeant LaJoyce Houston pled guilty in federal court Wednesday to receiving and retaining stolen government property.

Houston decided to skip a trial and take a government deal.

In exchange for a guilty plea, the government agrees to drop 19 charges against her.

Lajoyce's husband, former Tampa Police Detective Eric Houston also took a government deal earlier this year.

Both are accused of stealing people's identities from a police database and using the information to file phony tax returns. Federal prosecutors say they used the stolen money to go shopping and pay off credit cards.

Both were fired.

Former Police Chief Jane Castor had this to say then: "They do not deserve to wear the police uniform."

But the Houstons didn't do it alone. They had help from Rita Girven, a former police informant with a long criminal history.

The three had a cozy relationship. The Houstons adopted Girven's daughter. She is now in prison but before being sentenced she bragged in a jailhouse call about all the special favors she got from TPD.

"They would give me money, they would pay a bill. They'll help me pay rent, they'll do whatever they could to keep me from getting in trouble," said Girven.

Girven is now serving a 12-year prison sentence for her role in the tax fraud scheme. It's unclear what kind of prison time the Houstons will get but a federal magistrate made it clear to LaJoyce she "should" expect incarceration in this case.

Each Houston faces up 10 years in prison. Both will be sentenced this fall.

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