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Washington County sheriff's deputy charged with felonies following internal sting

Washington County authorities caught one of their own stealing drugs from a secure drop-off bin, according to allegations set forth in a criminal complaint.

Ricky Harry Gruber, a 43-year-old Washington County sheriff's deputy from Oakdale, was charged today with one count of felony drug possession, two felony theft counts, one count of officer misconduct - a gross misdemeanor - and a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

According to the complaint:

A sergeant in the department discovered on Friday, Jan. 25, that the drug drop-off bin - a public service that allows people to dispose of old or unused drugs anonymously at the county's Law Enforcement Center in Stillwater- was unlocked and that the holding container inside it was missing. When the sergeant went to install a replacement container on the following business day, he found the bin re-locked and a half-full container inside it.

Suspecting that someone from the department had been accessing the bin, the sergeant and a detective installed a recording device near the bin. On Feb. 6, the detective reported reviewing a video depicting a deputy, later identified as Gruber, opening the drug bin.

The sergeant and detective met with Washington County Sheriff William Hutton and a department narcotics officer about their findings. The department also turned to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help install additional surveillance cameras.

Authorities watching a live video feed on Feb. 12 spotted Gruber access the bin, remove the container filled with drugs and take it to a different room. They then watched as Gruber dumped out the contents into a cardboard box, selected drugs and went to his office. He then was observed returning to the room where the bin belonged, where he replaced the bin and locked it.

The complaint states Gruber began to run from the room when a commander and a sergeant who had been watching the feed entered. He was arrested on the spot.

During an interview with authorities, Gruber allegedly admitted to taking drugs from the bin for personal use for months.

Gruber, who was not given access to the secure bin, admitted to taking a key from a ring at the department and making his own copy.

Investigators searched Gruber's office and truck, where they located 19 Schedule 4 pills and numerous other pills that can't be legally possessed without a prescription.

Gruber makes his first court appearance on May 15.