Officer who lied about search warrant no longer works for Eden Prairie, statement released
A veteran investigator left the Eden Prairie Police Department last month, shortly after an admitted drug dealer was released from prison because the officer lied under oath about a search warrant.
Detective Travis Serafin’s last day with the Eden Prairie department was Nov. 6, the city’s human resources director confirmed Monday. Serafin had worked for the department since October 2000 and earned $92,289. He was once named the department’s officer of the year. He was also a member of the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, whose work was at least temporarily suspended after the trouble with Serafin.
In mid-October, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced a problem with the search warrant Serafin used to seize drugs and a gun from the house and car of Timothy Holmes on Sept. 14, 2017. Serafin had a warrant for the house, but not the car where most of the drugs and a gun were found.
A week after the search, he created a second warrant that covered both the house and car. When asked about the two warrants, he blamed clerical confusion. He lied under oath, saying the two warrants were a result of sloppy record-keeping on his part during a hectic time.
After the search, Holmes was charged with first-degree drug sale and third-degree murder related to the overdose death of a person to whom Holmes was alleged to have sold heroin. In March 2018, Holmes pleaded guilty to a first-degree drug sale charge. As part of the plea, Hennepin County Judge Fred Karasov dropped the third-degree murder charge in the death of Margaret “Maggie” Lane. Holmes was sentenced to six years in prison.
Eden Prairie investigated concerns about the warrants and found evidence of misconduct by Serafin. In October, Chief Deputy Hennepin County Attorney David Brown said 32 cases were targets for dismissal because Serafin was a critical witness. There are another 11 cases in which Serafin was a peripheral witness, and the defense lawyers have been contacted.
“It’s devastating; I’ve been a prosecutor in Hennepin County for over 30 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Brown said at the time. “Our trust, the trust of the law enforcement officers who do just exceptional work, and the trust in our prosecutors is everything, so when something like this happens as part of our initiative in doing the right thing, we know our obligation is to take steps as soon as we can to right that wrong.”
Serafin hasn’t publicly commented. On Monday, Eden Prairie released a 74-page transcript of Serafin’s interview with an investigator regarding the Holmes warrant.
In the interview, Serafin claimed he had two warrants, but couldn’t find the front page for one of them. According to a forensic review of his computer, Serafin created a second warrant on Sept. 22, more than a week after the first one. The second warrant, allowing for the search of the car, didn’t exist in the computer system until eight days later, according to the documents released Monday.
When the investigator in the disciplinary interview asked Serafin whether he had the authority to search the vehicles at Holmes’ house, he said, “No, I didn’t.”
But he also said he wasn’t “totally aware” at the time that the warrant didn’t include the vehicles. “I was acting on good faith basically at the time and dealing with all the people that were in and/or around the residence,” Serafin said.
Defense attorney Frederick Goetz, who represented Holmes, learned of Serafin’s employment status Monday. “It’s always sad when you have professional people who’ve devoted their lives to a career and have their lives fall apart because of preventable actions,” Goetz said. “This is one of those circumstances.”
Serafin’s actions have been sent to McLeod County prosecutors for consideration of criminal charges.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson