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Fifteen current or former Boston Police Department employees have been charged since September, as prosecutors have alleged they embezzled overtime pay for hours they did not work — a total of over $300,000 over a five-year period.
The latest developments in the still-ongoing probe arrived this week when federal prosecutors announced Thursday they had charged Craig Smalls, 55, a former officer from Roxbury, who subsequently agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft and one count of embezzlement.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Smalls admitted that from at least March 2015 through September 2016, he submitted fraudulent overtime slips for shifts he did not work at the department’s evidence warehouse, collecting a total of about $16,252.
Also on Thursday, former Sgt. Gerard O’Brien, 62, of Braintree, pleaded guilty to committing over $25,000 in overtime fraud when working at the warehouse, prosecutors said.
O’Brien was among nine officers initially charged in September as a result of the federal investigation. All were department members tasked with overseeing the evidence warehouse.
Then U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office said at the time that officers at the warehouse were eligible to earn overtime pay of 1.5 times higher than their regular hourly rate.
Officers worked “purge” overtime shifts, where they worked to reduce the evidence inventory from 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and “kiosk” overtime from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays, where officers collected items like unused prescription drugs from every police district in Boston for incineration in Saugus.
Time and again, officers allegedly filed overtime pay slips for full shifts when they often left long before quitting time, according to Lelling’s office.
In the months since, only more employees — most of them having worked at the warehouse — have become ensnarled in the alleged fraud.
Here’s what to know about the latest developments in the investigation:
With over a dozen department members charged, the Boston police overtime scandal has surpassed the scope of a similar controversy that enveloped the Massachusetts State Police, according to The Boston Globe.
Ten troopers faced state and federal charges in that overtime scandal, which totaled at least $200,000 in alleged fraudulent pay over the course of two years.
Boston police officers allegedly collected fraudulent overtime even as the state police controversy played out in full view of the public, according to the newspaper.
Among those charged are six former supervisors, the Globe reports. Investigators have also turned their attention to potential instances of overtime abuse further back, in 2015.
Of the initial nine officers charged, two of them — former officer James Carnes and officer Michael Murphy — have pleaded guilty, the Globe reports. Two others — O’Brien and officer Diana Lopez — have taken plea deals with prosecutors.
Murphy and Kendra Conway — two officers still in the department — have been suspended.
Six others retired in the year and a half before they were arrested, which allows them to collect pensions amid the investigation, according to the news outlet. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Timothy Torigian resigned.
The officers, if convicted, could spend up to 10 years in prison for the charges against them, which includes conspiracy to commit theft and embezzlement.
Torigian and Conway had not yet entered pleas as of June 5. Attorneys for both of them and Murphy either declined to comment to the Globe or did not return requests for comment.
But still unclear is how federal investigators first became aware of the alleged corruption. Lelling has said the Boston police anti-corruption unit is assisting in the review, while Sgt. Det. John Boyle, the department’s spokesman, declined to speak with the Globe earlier this month, citing the ongoing investigation.
Since September, others charged in connection with the alleged scheme include three additional evidence unit supervisors.
Marilyn Golisano, clerk in the District A-1 dectectives unit, is also alleged to have run a separate overtime fraud scheme where she collected over $29,000 total in 2017 and 2018, according to the Globe, which wrote that her attorney declined to comment on the charges.
Notably, however, the evidence warehouse has created issues for the police force before.
In 2006, an audit found that 700 bags of drugs were missing and noted 265 instances where evidence envelopes were emptied or opened, according to the Globe. No department employees were disciplined or arrested.
In 2018, Joseph Nee, a former evidence unit officer, pleaded guilty to stealing $2,000 in cash that was evidence in a bank robbery case.
Earlier this month though, prosecutors announced Nee had been charged in the overtime pay investigation. Officials said Nee acknowledged taking $12,636 for overtime he didn’t work between 2015 and 2017, the Globe reports.
At least nine of the officers implicated have been entered into a database managed by Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins that flags to prosecutors which officers are problem witnesses in court.
“If a police officer is dishonest in one case, it raises legitimate questions in their other cases,” Anthony Bendetti, chief counsel for the state’s public defenders office, told the Globe.
Even officers who are not charged in the scandal could face credibility issues in court, according to the newspaper.
“Who’s going to testify about evidence practices?” said Daniel Medwed, a law and criminal justice professor at Northeastern University. “It has to be someone who’s not tainted by this scandal. And given how widespread the scandal is, can you fairly say that there is somebody who isn’t at all tainted?”
Records reviewed by the Globe earlier this month revealed that federal investigators turned their attention to five additional officers over the course of their probe so far. Collectively, the five allegedly made $36,000 in fraudulent overtime in three years, although none have been criminally charged.
Among them are Thomas Nee, a former president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, and Sybil Mason, the ex-wife of the department’s most recent commissioner, Dennis White, who was fired this month by acting Mayor Kim Janey, according to the newspaper.
Affidavits indicate Nee and Mason allegedly collected over $3,590 and $7,208, respectively, in overtime compensation for hours they did not actually work.
Nee retired last month while Mason is still in the department. Neither returned requests for comment from the Globe.
The three others are: Andre Williams, who allegedly pocketed $11,181; Darius Andrew, who allegedly took $9,702; and Kennedy Semedo, who allegedly collected $4,594, according to the publication.
Williams and Agnew retired from the force in 2019, while Semedo remains on active duty. Each either declined to speak with the Globe or didn’t return requests for comment.
Former federal prosecutors Brian Kelly and Tony Fuller told the Globe some officers linked to the case could ultimately avoid charges for a number of reasons.
“Sometimes the evidence [federal authorities] obtain doesn’t corroborate their original theory, or the amounts involved are too minimal to get their attention,” said Kelly, a partner at Nixon Peabody.
Fuller said some could be negotiating plea deals or working with authorities.
“Or there might be mitigating facts and circumstances that make federal prosecution of the offenses inappropriate for certain individuals,” said Fuller, a partner at Hogan Lovells.
At least two officers from the evidence unit — who have not been named — are cooperating with prosecutors in order to avoid prosecution, court records reviewed by the Globe show.
Also unknown at the moment is just how deep investigators will dig. But, as the Globe reports, there are indicators the scope of the investigation could be widening as officials have started to look into overtime records even further back than they did initially last year.
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