A state law enforcement agent is on mandatory leave after being indicted on 12 felony charges, including accusations of using his position for personal gain.
Steven Ziaja, a 39-year-old Alabama Law Enforcement Agency employee who worked for the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Enforcement Division, was arrested earlier this week. AL.com first reported the indictments Wednesday. Officials said Ziaja no longer was working for ABC Enforcement when he was arrested. He had moved to ALEA's Law Enforcement Support Division, a spokeswoman said.
"He has been placed on mandatory leave until he uses all his annual leave," said ALEA spokeswoman Robyn Bryan in an email to AL.com. "He then will be on leave without pay."
Ziaja is accused of obtaining confidential information about multiple people from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center using state computers, court records show. The Center's database includes information from the National Crime Information Center, also known as NCIC. The information is available to law enforcement for investigative and official business purposes.
Ziaja is charged with 11 felony counts of computer tampering and one count of using his law enforcement position for personal gain. Court documents allege he used his position "to obtain personal gain for himself, a family member or a business with which he was associated." Records don't identify what the gain was or what it relates to. Ziaja hung up the phone when AL.com contacted him for comment. It is unclear whether he has hired an attorney.The Alabama Attorney General's Office has declined to comment on the indictments. Spokesman Mike Lewis told AL.com prosecutors aren't releasing details about the case, including why Ziaja obtained the confidential information or what types or personal gain he allegedly used his position for.
"We cannot comment on that," Lewis said.
Ziaja, who is from Morgan County, made local news last year when he was named as a creditor in a car lot that filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Ziaja claimed the co-owner of Priceville Partners LLC owed him $464,299 plus interest for loans to the car lot, court documents show. Also a creditor listed in the $3.2 million bankruptcy suit was Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. In 2015, Franklin loaned the car lot $150,000. It was later made public that Franklin used the jail's food account to make the loan to the car lot's co-owner Greg Steenson. Steenson, who was convicted in a federal check-kiting scheme in the 1990s, has been charged with multiple counts of theft related to moving stolen cars through the lot, court records show. The car lot's creditors, including the sheriff and Ziaja, haven't been charged with theft.
A review of state financial disclosure forms shows Ziaja supplemented his state pay check with income from selling hay and vehicles in 2015. Ziaja wrote on his Statement of Economic Interests that he made less than $1,000 selling hay and between $1,000-$10,000 selling vehicles that year.The indictments against Ziaja were issued in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Indictments are issued when a grand jury determines prosecutors have enough evidence to formally charge a defendant and send the case to trial. The AG's office is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by ALEA special agents.
Each of the computer tampering charges is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The use of office for personal gain charge carries a sentence up to 20 years in prison.
Ziaja was released from the Montgomery County Jail after posting $30,000 bail.