Image: Faron White
Decatur Police Department via AP
Sgt. Faron White, the head of Decatur, Ala.'s organized crime unit. 
updated 1/6/2009 11:05:09 AM ET 2009-01-06T16:05:09

An Alabama police organized crime specialist who vanished last week amid signs of a struggle, triggering a search of a nearby river, was arrested in Las Vegas and accused of staging his disappearance to cover up a theft, authorities said Tuesday.

Police said Sgt. Faron White, 48, vanished in a bid to cover up a theft of $2,500 from his department in the north Alabama city of Decatur.

White — the head of the city's organized crime unit and Decatur's officer of the year for 2007 — was arrested late Monday by a federal fugitive task force in the lobby of a Hampton Inn hotel in Las Vegas. He was charged with theft.

Authorities said a 29-year-old woman, Sarah Richardson, was arrested at her home in Decatur and accused of helping White flee. Police didn't release details of any relationship between the woman and White, who is married with three children.

White was held on $20,000 bond; Richardson's was set at $2,500. Additional charges are possible against White and Richardson, who was accused of hindering prosecution.

It was unclear whether White, of Falkville, had hired a lawyer. Richardson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Rescue teams deployed
Police said the officer's family reported him missing early Saturday after he failed to return home from work. Police found signs of a struggle in White's office and began a search, which included a helicopter and rescue teams scouring the banks of the Tennessee River.

White joined the Decatur Police Department in November 1986, working in the jail before becoming a police officer.

The American Legion honored White last year as the city's officer of the year for 2007, noting that his unit was responsible for 354 arrests and the seizure of more than $100,000 worth of cash, weapons and property from drug dealers.

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