SAN DIEGO – Ten members of San Diego’s undercover investigative community were recognized at the 6th Annual ASIS International Law Enforcement Appreciation luncheon Thursday.
“These are our everyday heroes and they’re invisible to most people. That’s why we have one event a year where we honor them,” said Sarah Santana, chairwoman of ASIS International San Diego.
Chula Vista police Detective David Padilla was among those honored. He solved a criminal case involving a 25-year-old woman who was scamming people out of money by making them believe she had terminal cancer.
“I’ve been in law enforcement since 1993 and just when you think you’ve seen everything – something new comes up,” said Padilla.
“It’s hard to believe that someone would do that. As seasoned as we are as detectives we said ‘no that’s impossible. I’m sure it’s a false report,'” he said. “As the investigation developed we saw that the suspect Meaghan Hudson was pretending to have cancer for financial gain.”
Former high school friends of Hudson believed she was dying. They flew her to Dayton, Ohio for a fundraiser where hundreds of people gave thousands of dollars.
“They believed her so much they shaved their heads and got tattoos in front of her… to support her,” he said.
Someone did not buy Hudson’s story and anonymously called Crime Stoppers. Padilla and other investigators started digging through evidence. Their investigation eventually led to Hudson being convicted.
“I do believe there’s more good than evil. It may sound corny, but I do believe we’re making a difference and the community wants us and supports us,” said Detective Padilla. “An event like this – it is nice. Especially with all the negative attention law enforcement seems to be getting.”
“A lot of the work the detectives do is unsung. It’s behind the scenes and a lot of it is very tedious,” said Chief Investigator of the San Diego District Attorney’s Office Adolfo Gonzales.