Tampa Police Officer Arrested and Terminated
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Arrested Officer: Sergeant La Joyce Houston, 47 years old, B/F, hired 9/28/97, Houston worked as a patrol sergeant
Charges: 2 Counts of Welfare Fraud, Grand Theft
Suspect: Rita Monique Girven, DOB: 10/12/82, B/F, 2407 Belmont Estates Avenue #B, Tampa
Charges: Welfare fraud
On 8/8/13, Tampa Police detectives were listening to the recorded telephone conversations of an inmate in the Hillsborough County Jail as part of an ongoing investigation. The inmate, Rita Girven, has an extensive criminal record with 49 felony charges. Most are related to theft and fraud. Over the next nine weeks, Sergeant La Joyce Houston and the suspect spoke on the phone at least 35 times. During one of the calls, the inmate told Houston where she could find her government food assistance card that is commonly referred to as an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. On 9/10/13, Houston utilized the card to purchase $365 in groceries from a Gibsonton Walmart. Houston then gave the card to one of her family members who utilized it to make unauthorized purchases. The family member then provided Houston with $0.50 for every dollar she spent and Houston placed that money into Girven’s jail canteen account.
Today 10/10/13 at 1:30p.m., Chief Jane Castor terminated Houston at her attorney’s office and informed her of the charges against her. She was then transported to the Hillsborough County Jail on two counts of Welfare Fraud and Grand Theft charges.
Girven was also charged with Welfare Fraud for allowing Houston to use her benefits card. The card was in Girven’s name and the name of her 12-year-old son. However, a family member has had custody of her son since birth and the suspect does not provide any financial support for the child. This was another element of the charge against her.
Houston is married to Tampa Police Detective Eric Houston. At this time, there is no indication that Detective Houston is involved in any criminal activity however; the department is conducting a thorough Internal Affairs investigation.
The Houston’s have had custody of Girven’s daughter since she was an infant and they legally adopted her in 2009. Girven does not provide financial assistance to her biological daughter.