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DA investigator: Buffalo cop accused of taking cash from found wallet initially denied taking it

A Buffalo police officer, accused of taking $130 from a woman’s wallet after a Good Samaritan found it and gave it to him to return to its owner, initially denied taking the money, an investigator from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office testified Friday.

Chief Criminal Investigator Joseph Riga said that during a Sept. 10 interview at the DA’s Office, Officer Michael R. Missana told him he didn’t look inside the wallet to see if it contained money after it was found at the Caffe Aroma on Elmwood Avenue and turned over to him Aug. 12 by the Good Samaritan.

But the 42-year-old officer later admitted he knew there was money in it and that he took the cash when the wallet fell onto the floor of his patrol car and the money came out, Riga said.

At that point, Riga said he left the interview room, consulted with District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III and Assistant District Attorney Michael Felicetta, then took a sworn statement from the officer after advising him of his Miranda rights.

At one point during the statement, Riga said he knew Missana was not being truthful, based on what other witnesses had said. Riga said they went off the record, and Riga told the officer he could be charged with perjury if he was lying.

He said Missana admitted he was not being truthful, and they resumed the sworn statement. Missana allegedly admitted that he had taken the money out of the wallet and that it had not fallen on the patrol car floor.

The testimony came during a State Supreme Court hearing on a motion by Missana’s attorney, Thomas Eoannou, seeking to suppress his client’s statement.

Eoannou contends that Missana was called to the DA’s Office under false pretenses, that the entire interview was not recorded and that his client was threatened with perjury while giving the statement.

Riga testified that Missana was told that prosecutors wanted to talk to him about an unrelated burglary case, that Felicetta talked to him about that case for about five minutes and that Riga then questioned him about the wallet.

The investigator acknowledged that the entire interview, including Missana’s initial denial and Riga challenging the denial, was not recorded.

Riga denied threatening Missana but admitted he went off the record during the statement and told him he may be committing perjury if he didn’t tell the truth.

Justice Penny M. Wolfgang reserved decision on the suppression motion. She is expected to issue a ruling before the next court appearance in the case March 16.

Missana is charged with petit larceny and official misconduct, both Class A misdemeanors, for taking the money from the wallet before returning the wallet to its owner.

Missana, who has been on the force for less than two years, has been suspended.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com