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Ex-officer is cleared on fraud charges

Charles Lincoln worked two full-time jobs before retiring. Charles Lincoln worked two full-time jobs before retiring.

Charles B. Lincoln, the retired Brockton police lieutenant who was called a "poster child for pension abuse" for collecting nearly $140,000 from two public jobs, was acquitted yesterday of two counts of mail fraud in federal court.

The 12-person jury, which received the case Tuesday, deliberated for about 18 hours over three days, said defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler.

Lincoln "is thrilled to be walking out the way he walked in, with the presumption of innocence," Drechsler said. "It was very emotional for him."

During the trial, other Brockton police officers testified that it was common practice to allow officers to use accumulated sick days as personal days during the last few years before retirement, Drechsler said. Lincoln was on the Brockton force 31 years.

Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr., who was not in office during the years Lincoln worked there, said in a telephone interview yesterday that "what is no longer in dispute is the fact that Lincoln's supervisors looked the other way when he reportedly claimed to be sick when he wasn't."

Lincoln was working full time for the Brockton police while working full time for the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department, where he was director of security.

"We're disappointed," said US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan yesterday. "We understood it was a difficult case."

Lincoln still faces two civil suits from the city of Brockton and from Plymouth County, as well as a State Ethics Commission investigation, said Nicholas C. Poser, his attorney in the civil suits. The civil cases were put on hold until the end of the criminal trial.

Lincoln, of Middleborough, was indicted in October. He was accused of fraudulently using sick days between 2001 and 2004 to boost his pension.

He retired in 2004 at the age of 62. The combination of service at the two jobs boosted his pension to $139,787, the largest in the Plymouth County retirement system. His pension is based on his combined pay for the last three years of his career, during which he averaged $177,570 in salary. His annual pension includes $537 from Dedham, where he worked a few years, $76,554 from Brockton, and $62,697 from Plymouth County.

Lincoln was the subject of a scathing report last year from state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan, who called him a "master manipulator."

Lincoln called in sick 251 times, 222 days for police and 29 days at the sheriff's department. On 148 days that he called in sick to police, he worked a full shift at the Sheriff's Department, according to the inspector general.

Reed Hillman, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in the last election, dubbed Lincoln "a poster child for fraud and pension abuse in the present system" in the 2006 campaign.

Mayor James E. Harrington of Brockton said he had no comment yesterday because of the city's pending civil case.

Sullivan, in his report, said the taxpayers of Plymouth County should find "the Lincoln pension situation to be incredibly offensive," noting that Lincoln worked only three years for the county but will be paid about $60,000 a year by taxpayers for the rest of his life.

Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

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