Sources: Aurora didn't investigate complaint against sex offender cop

CALL7 finds complaint months before arrest

AURORA, Colo. - Aurora police received a complaint about an officer with a pattern of sexual misconduct against female suspects, but the sergeant who received the tip failed to investigate it, a CALL7 investigation found.

Aurora D.A.R.E. Officer Michael Mangino was arrested in March 2011 and pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a 15-year-old runaway in his custody.

Months before the abuse arrest, another woman told Mangino’s supervisor, Sgt. Damon Vaz, that Mangino was having inappropriate contact with women, two sources familiar with the investigation said.

But instead of investigating the claim or passing it to the department’s internal affairs department, Vaz ignored the allegation, the sources told CALL7 Investigators.

“How would your client feel if she knew there was a complaint from another woman a year before?” asked CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon.

“She is going to be mightily unhappy that a prior complaint was ignored,” said David Lane, a Denver attorney representing the teen. “This officer is obviously a sexual predator. He preys on the most vulnerable and weakest women he can find.”

A court filing obtained by 7NEWS alleges Mangino had a history of exploiting criminal suspects and teens he oversaw as a school resource officer.

He took “four still shots” of a student in a sexual pose, told a woman he would “take care of warrants” if she exposed herself, requested another woman send pictures of “her naked body” and offered to release a drug suspect if she “touched him,” the court record showed. He was not charged in those cases.

But Lane did not know, until CALL7 Investigators told him, about the other complaint months before his client was victimized. Sources say Vaz took the report but failed to investigate or pass it on.

Vaz declined to comment.

“You received a complaint from a woman but apparently failed to act. What happened?"  Rabon asked.

“I have no comment, and that’s a department issue,” Vaz said. “If you have any questions, please just contact our PIO office.”

Aurora police chief Dan Oates declined an on-camera interview, instead releasing this statement:

“The Aurora Police Department put Mangino in jail,” the statement said. “APD thoroughly investigated every allegation to include this one against the Sergeant.  We charged Mangino with every possible crime we could.  As to the Sergeant’s actions, that is a personnel matter.  The Sergeant has since been appropriately trained and disciplined. This matter is closed.”

Sources said Vaz received a one-day suspension, but Lane said the investigation was not thorough.

“What did he do with the complaint? Did he shred the complaint? Throw it away? Did he destroy an officially filed document?” Lane asked. “Because if he did he should be prosecuted just like anyone else would be prosecuted for destroying an officially filed report.”

Joseph Sandoval, a Metropolitan State University criminology professor, questions why police did not investigate Mangino earlier given the complaint and what later came to light that Mangino was doing.

“There is a tendency for police officers to let the blue curtain fall, to circle the wagons, to take a defensive posture,” Sandoval said.

Both Lane and Sandoval said Mangino received a light sentence. Mangino pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child -- receiving a three year suspended sentence and serving 90 days in jail. As part of the plea, the most serious felonies were dismissed. He was released last week.

Mangino declined to do an interview from jail, and the woman who filed the complaint and is currently in jail on an unrelated drug charge also declined comment.  The teen could not be interviewed as she is in another state.

This week, Lane filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying Aurora police violated the teen’s civil rights.