News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Deputy indicted for fraud

A Linn County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) deputy has been indicted for allegedly using confidential medical records to defraud an elderly Mill City man of his personal property last winter.

Steven Ray Church, 59, of Mill City, was indicted Jan. 31 in Linn County Circuit Court for buying a pickup and rifle from a man he allegedly knew to be mentally incompetent.

Charges include aggravated first-degree theft, first-degree theft, first-degree criminal mistreatment, first-degree official misconduct, second-degree official misconduct and misuse of confidential information.

Church was arraigned Feb. 7. He was booked and released that day from the Benton County Jail. Benton County is handling both the investigation and prosecution of the case. Church is due back in court for a status check hearing April 2.

If convicted, he faces up to ten years in prison on the highest count. He is represented by Portland defense attorney Christine Mascal.

LCSO Sheriff Michelle Duncan confirmed to The Canyon Weekly Church was placed on administrative leave in February of 2023 when her office learned of the allegations. At that time the matter was handed over to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, as per LCSO protocol.

Duncan was unable to provide additional details due to related employment proceedings. She said a public statement will be issued by LCSO once these proceedings conclude.

According to the indictment, the alleged incidents occurred between Dec. 24, 2022, and Jan. 10, 2023.

Allegedly Church accessed the victim’s personal medical records through his authority as a deputy with the intent to gain an advantage in a property transaction.

Church then allegedly acquired from the victim a 2012 Chevy pickup valued at more than $10,000 and a rifle valued at more than $1,000. 

The transactions allegedly included an offer to buy the truck for less than market value.

The indictment said the victim “was mentally incapable of entering this agreement… by reason of medical and/or mental issues.” 

During arraignment Benton County Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Park described the victim as “an elderly, disabled, retired veteran.”

Park also said Feb. 7 that Church may be “a respected law enforcement officer” but the prosecution cannot overlook alleged violations of public trust.

Park told The Canyon Weekly he could not provide additional information other than his statements during arraignment, as these were already public record.

No personal relationship, if any, between Church and the victim was detailed in court records. The indictment said the victim was dependent on Church for care at the time of the transaction and Church allegedly “(took) charge of (the victim) for the purpose of fraud.”

Supplemental allegations in the indictment said Church’s actions were a “violation of a public trust and/or professional responsibility.” It also said his alleged prior knowledge of the victim’s medical and mental vulnerabilities “increased the harm or threat of harm caused by the offense.”

Church joined LCSO in 1996 as a reservist and in 1997 became a full time deputy, according to state records. His most recent title, according to Linn County’s website, was Senior Patrol Deputy.

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