FBI arrests former Avon police sergeant | VailDaily.com

FBI arrests former Avon police sergeant

Christine Ina Casillas
Robert Gallen

A former Avon police sergeant was arrested Thursday on charges of possession of child pornography.

Avon resident Robert Gallen, 51, was found to be in the possession of floppy disks with images of child pornography, said Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman.

Gallen was arrested early Thursday following an investigation by the FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Avon Police Department. He was transported to the U.S. Marshals Office in Denver and could face up to five years in federal prison with a $250,000 fine, said Jeff Dorschner, press officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.

A retired sergeant from the West Chester Police Department in Pennsylvania, Gallen started with the Avon Police Department May 14, 2001 as a police officer. He later was promoted to sergeant in June of 2002, said Jacquie Halburnt, public relations director of Avon.

“We’re disappointed. At the time we hired him, we thought we were getting an experienced hand,” Chief Layman said. “His background investigation was spotless. He spent 27 years with the West Chester Police Department. He was stellar. We were absolutely blindsided by this news.”

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip in February on a report of possible allegations that Gallen was involved in child pornography, Layman said. The Sheriff’s Office reported the event to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

“CBI let us know about the tip,” Layman said. “We asked them to conduct a full criminal investigation.”

Three days after the Avon Police Department requested a full investigation, the bureau secured a search warrant on Gallen’s house. There, the bureau confiscated computers and computer paraphernalia verifying the allegations, Layman said.

“All of this happened at the end of February, when we first conducted the investigation,” Layman said.

Gallen was placed on administrative leave Feb. 28, the day the search warrant was issued, until the outcome of the investigation was completed, he said.

“All we can say is that he no longer works for us,” Layman said. “There was no indication that he had a problem like this. We never would have guessed it.”

In early April, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation met with the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office, informing them of Gallen’s pending arrest. At that time, the bureau contacted the FBI, inquiring about potential involvement in the case. The FBI confirmed there was.

Concurrent with the criminal investigation, the Avon Police Department requested an internal investigation through the Montrose office of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Those reports resulted in Gallen’s resignation with the Avon Police Department.

During the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s probe, the bureau uncovered evidence that Gallen apparently had accessed child pornography sites on a computer about five years ago in Pennsylvania. He was never investigated for it, and he was never charged.

“Apparently, only members of his family knew about it,” Layman said.

“The bottom line is that as soon as we were aware of the problem, we took immediate action,” Layman said. “When something like this happens … it’s disappointing. But when people make mistakes they need to own up to them.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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