Nine current and former Boston Police officers allegedly committed over $200,000 in overtime fraud while tasked with overseeing the department’s evidence warehouse over nearly three years, a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday alleges.
The officers, members of the Evidence Control Unit, allegedly frequently left their shifts early — by two hours or more before the scheduled end — but still submitted overtime pay slips to cover the full shift, according to Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office.
Lieutenant Timothy Torigian, 54, of Walpole; retired Sgt. Gerard O’Brien, 62, of Braintree; retired Sgt. Robert Twitchell, 58, of Norton; retired Officer Henry Doherty, 61, of Dorchester; retired Officer Diana Lopez, 58, of Milton; retired Officer James Carnes, 57, of Canton; Officer Michael Murphy, 60, of Hyde Park; retired Officer Ronald Nelson, 60, of Jamaica Plain; and Officer Kendra Conway, 49, of Boston, each face one count of conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds, prosecutors said.
All of the officers were arrested Wednesday and were scheduled to appear in Boston federal court by videoconference later in the day.
“I am a strong supporter of the police, especially in these difficult times,” Lelling said in a statement. “But all must be treated equally under the law, regardless of wealth, power or station. These officers are charged with stealing taxpayer money, year after year, through fraud. Beyond the theft of funds, this kind of official misconduct also erodes trust in public institutions, at a time when that trust is most needed.”
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, in a statement, said the department’s Anti-Corruption Unit uncovered the alleged abuse, spurring the criminal federal investigation.
Torigian, Murphy, and Conway have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case, according to Gross.
“The allegations and behavior alleged in today’s indictments is very troubling and in no way reflect the attitudes of the hard-working employees of the Boston Police Department,” Gross said
In a statement, Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said the officers arrested “are the anomaly from the honest and hard-working men and women of the BPD.”
Prosecutors allege the officers began pocketing the pay as far back as May 2016. As members of the ECU — which stores, catalogues, and retrieves evidence in storage collected by authorities — officers were able to earn overtime pay of 1.5 times higher than their regular hourly rate.
The additional shifts available to the officers included “purge” overtime, in which officers worked to reduce the evidence inventory from 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and “kiosk” overtime — a 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday shift where officers collected items like unused prescription drugs from every police district in Boston to be incinerated in Saugus.
According to Lelling’s office, the indictment alleges officers working the “purge” shift routinely left early and submitted false overtime slips.
“On days which the defendants claimed to have worked until 8 p.m., the warehouse was closed, locked and alarmed well before 8 p.m., and often by 6 p.m. or before,” prosecutors said in a statement.
“Supervisors, who also left early from this shift, allegedly submitted their own false and fraudulent slips and also knowingly endorsed the fraudulent overtime slips of their subordinates,” they added.
On “kiosk” shifts, officers often completed the work and left before 10 a.m. while still submitting slips stating they worked the full shift, officials allege.
The officers collectively embezzled over $200,000 in overtime pay between May 2016 and February 2019, prosecutors said. From 2016 through 2018, Boston police also received over $10,000 in annual federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Justice.
“According to court documents, Torigian received over $43,000 for overtime hours he did not work; Twitchell, O’Brien and Doherty each received over $25,000 for overtime hours they did not work; Carnes and Lopez each received over $20,000 for overtime hours they did not work; and Murphy, Nelson and Conway each received over $15,000 for overtime hours they did not work,” Lelling’s office said in a statement.
According to prosecutors, the embezzlement charge allows for a prison sentence of up to 10 years, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 or “twice the gross gain or loss” fine. For the conspiracy charge, officers face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
“I hold my officers to the highest standards and expect them to obey all the laws that they have taken an oath to uphold,” Gross said. “News of these indictments sends a strong message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated or ignored and can damage the trust my officers have worked so hard to build with the communities we serve.”
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