BOSTON (AP) — Three recently suspended or retired Massachusetts State Police troopers were arrested Wednesday and charged with taking thousands of dollars of overtime pay for hours they didn’t work by submitting bogus traffic citations to conceal that they had actually been off the clock.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling called the arrests the beginning of his office’s investigation into whether overtime abuse is a systemic problem at state police. State police have told prosecutors that about 40 employees had apparent discrepancies between pay received and hours worked in 2016, but the three troopers are the only ones so far to face criminal charges.
‘‘These troopers selfishly tarnished the reputation and badge worn proudly by so many other hard working members of the Massachusetts State Police, who put their lives on the line for all of us every each and every day,’’ Hank Shaw, FBI special agent in charge of the Boston Field Division, told reporters.
Paul Cesan, 50, Gary Herman, 45, and David Wilson, 57, were arrested at their homes just after sunrise and charged with embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds. They were expected to appear in court later Wednesday, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they have lawyers.
The troopers were members of the now-disbanded Troop E, which patrols the 138-mile Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to the New York state border.
Officials say the men put in for overtime pay for shifts they either left hours early or didn’t work at all in 2016. For example, Cesan’s cruiser radio was off — suggesting he wasn’t operating the vehicle — the entire time he claimed to be working an overtime shift that year, court records say.
Officials say the troopers either changed the dates of real traffic citations or submitted citations that never really happened to make it look like they had been working the whole time. Court records say police paid Cesan more than $29,000 in fraudulent overtime pay, while Herman and Wilson both received roughly $12,500.
Wilson, a former lieutenant, was an officer in charge of overtime shifts before he retired in March. Cesan also retired that month, and Herman is currently suspended.
Revelations of potential overtime abuse within Troop E led officials to disband the unit and order body cameras for state troopers and GPS vehicle locators in police cruisers, among other changes. State Police say they now have increased oversight for overtime shifts and are conducting regular audits of high earners.
‘‘We fully support and will continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigations being conducted by the US Attorney and the Attorney General,’’ State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin said in a statement.
The scandal is one of several that have engulfed state police in recent months.
A payroll director pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing more than $23,000 from the agency through fake travel reimbursements.
And last fall, the force’s superintendent, Col. Richard McKeon, abruptly retired after a trooper filed a lawsuit alleging that McKeon ordered him to scrub embarrassing details from the police report of a judge’s daughter.
Attorney General Maura Healey said in April that McKeon and others will not face criminal charges for the altered police report, but she referred the matter to the State’s Ethics Commission.