An officer working for a drug task force was using methamphetamine while on duty and compromised cases, Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson said on Monday.
Mark Zlendick, 48, was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for stealing more than a pound of methamphetamine and cocaine from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department’s evidence locker.
Zlendick admitted to trafficking in connection with the case, which was uncovered when Douglas County deputies responded to a domestic dispute between he and his girlfriend in May 2015.
Zlendick’s attorney David Houston said Zlendick was an addict who took the drugs for his own use.
“It was never the case where he sought to enrich himself,” Houston said.
Zlendick said he was addicted to alcohol and had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous four times a week, but said the demands of his position caused him to back off to once a month.
“I was dealt a bad hand in life,” he said. “I lost contact with my higher power.”
When he was arrested, he said his first thought was to try and leave the country, but decided to accept punishment for the crimes.
“I stand here and accept my medicine,” he said.
However, Jackson took issue with statements that Zlendick had only been using for a couple of months and that it was to feed an addiction.
“He said he’d only been using for three months and on weekends,” Jackson said. “This is not a crime of addiction.”
While there were only 38 grams of the drugs left when Zlendick was arrested, Jackson said the deputy filled a lunchbox half full with cocaine and methamphetamine slated for disposal. The theft amounted to 10 ounces of each drug, or 567 grams combined. Nevada law considers 28 grams to be the highest level of trafficking.
Jackson said the negotiations resulted in just one charge being filed, and that because of the plea agreement, Zlendick won’t face California and federal charges.
Jackson read transcripts of text messages between Zlendick and the woman, that asked if he was going to bring “presents” home from a run to dispose of illegal drugs and guns.
The texts show both the woman and Zlendick were increasingly concerned about the amount of drugs they were consuming. When deputies arrived at Zlendick’s Centerville home on May 19, 2015, his girlfriend told them they were arguing over the large amount of drugs they were using.
Jackson said cases Zlendick participated in had to be dismissed because he’d removed evidence.
He met the girlfriend at Alcoholics Anonymous and texted back and forth about the drugs.
When the task force learned of Zlendick’s arrest, they searched his workstation and found 3.4 grams of cocaine and empty capsules in his desk.
Under Nevada law there are only two possible sentences for trafficking, either 10 years to life in prison or 10-25 years in prison.
District Judge Tom Gregory said that the sentence was justified regardless of the legislation.
“You abused your power as a police officer,” he said. “You did everything you could to return this poison to the community.”
Jackson said it will be 10 calendar years before Zlendick is eligible for probation. Zlendick had only been in jail for six days since his arrest, and was taken into custody by the sheriff’s office after his hearing was completed.