Deposit of blood-covered money led to arrest of Atascosa County EMS director

Donald Penny, 55, admitted to taking money from man injured in chase with sheriff’s deputies

ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas – The Atascosa County Emergency Medical Services director has been fired after he admitted to law enforcement investigators that he took money belonging to a man injured in a high-speed chase and later deposited the blood-soaked currency at a bank.

Donald Penny, 55, was arrested last month on a charge of official oppression.

Penny is also under investigation for possibly taking money from an Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy who died in an off-duty crash in December, a probable cause affidavit obtained Wednesday by KSAT shows.

Deputy Sheriff Alan Perez died following a Dec. 9 traffic accident. A female victim, an off-duty Jourdanton police officer, was also seriously injured in the wreck.

She told investigators that Perez had withdrawn $200 prior to the crash and may have left much of the currency in the vehicle’s middle console or other compartment.

An investigation by the Texas Rangers revealed that Penny went to First Commercial Bank in Jourdanton on the day of the fatal accident and “exchanged $121 of bloody money for non-bloody money.”

Penny was seen on surveillance video footage exchanging the money in a microfiber cloth, according to the affidavit.

The bank employee who made the exchange told investigators that Penny said the money was from an accident where the owner never claimed the cash.

During the investigation, Texas Highway Patrol troopers revealed that no money was recovered from the crash scene and that Penny was not with EMS crews who responded to the wreck.

Officials with the medical examiner’s office confirmed that no cash was found on Perez or in his wallet at the time of his death.

According to the affidavit, Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward told investigators Penny had not turned any money over to the county treasurer’s office, which is the protocol for unclaimed property.

During an interview with the Rangers on Dec. 21, Penny admitted to stealing money but said it was from a chase with a sheriff’s office deputy that ended in a wreck.

Penny said the accident occurred 2-3 years ago and that “he thought that since it had been so long then the money was considered abandoned.”

He also said during his interview that he was going to deposit the money into the Atascosa County EMS account used for donations of flowers and other miscellaneous expenses before admitting he kept it and used it to buy groceries for his family.

Penny showed investigators his bank account ledger, which was “in the negative for several hundreds of dollars,” the affidavit states.

“Penny reasoned that he used the money and was going to pay it back later,” the affidavit states.

Atascosa County officials said Tuesday that Penny was terminated during a commissioner’s court meeting on Jan. 23.

Penny was previously suspended with pay on Jan. 9, the same day a warrant was issued for his arrest for official oppression, the Pleasanton Express previously reported.

Official oppression occurs when a public servant acting under the color of his or her office mistreats another person or impedes that person’s rights.

Penny surrendered to the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office last month after the warrant was issued for his arrest.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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