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9 Mass. cops charged in overtime fraud scheme

The officers are alleged to have embezzled more than $200,000 by submitting false time sheets


Photo/Steph Solis via MCT

By Colin A. Young, State House News Bureau
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

BOSTON — Nine current and former Boston police officers were arrested and charged by federal prosecutors Wednesday for allegedly engaging in a yearslong scheme to defraud the department of overtime pay.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced the indictments on charges of conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds. From May 2016 through February 2019, the defendants embezzled more than $200,000 in overtime pay from BPD, Lelling’s office alleged.

Arrested and indicted Wednesday morning were Lt. 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. The defendants are expected to have initial appearances in federal court in Boston via videoconference Wednesday.

“I am a strong supporter of the police, especially in these difficult times. But all must be treated equally under the law, regardless of wealth, power or station,” Lelling said. “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.”

The indictments come while Lelling’s office continues to process cases against at least eight Massachusetts State Police troopers accused by federal prosecutors of taking pay for overtime pay for shifts they did not work and covering their tracks by submitting falsified citations. A year ago, Lelling’s office charged a past head of the State Police Association of Massachusetts with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars directly from the union.

The BPD officers involved in the alleged overtime fraud scheme were assigned to BPD’s Evidence Control Unit, where they were eligible for various overtime assignments at time-and-a-half pay. By May 2016, Lelling alleged, the defendants “routinely departed overtime shifts two or more hours early but submitted false and fraudulent overtime slips claiming to have worked the entirety of each shift.”

That includes “purge” overtime shifts during which officers were expected to reduce the inventory of the evidence warehouse from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. Lelling said that on days when defendants claimed to have worked the full overtime shift, the warehouse was often “closed, locked and alarmed well before 8:00 p.m., and often by 6:00 p.m. or before.” The U.S. attorney said supervisors “knowingly endorsed the fraudulent overtime slips of their subordinates” by also leaving early and submitting falsified time records.

The officers are also accused of claiming overtime pay for “kiosk” overtime shifts they did not complete. One Saturday a month from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., an officer would work overtime to collect surrendered prescription medications from police districts around the city and bring them to an incinerator in Saugus. Lelling’s office alleged that the defendants “routinely submitted overtime slips claiming to have worked eight and a half hours when in fact the defendants frequently completed the work and left the shift early, often before 10:00 a.m.”

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said the three current Boston officers who were indicted have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case.

“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. 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.”

Gross said his department’s Anti-Corruption Unit uncovered information regarding alleged payroll/overtime abuse by evidence management unit officers and got the FBI and Lelling’s office involved in the investigation. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he was “outraged and, quite frankly, outright disgusted at the utter breach of trust by these nine individuals” from BPD and commended Gross and Lelling for bringing the allegations to light.

“These allegations are an affront to the thousands of police officers who do their jobs every day with honesty, integrity, and bravery,” Walsh said.

Federal prosecutors said Torigian received more than $43,000 for overtime hours he did not work; Twitchell, O’Brien and Doherty each received more than $25,000 for overtime hours they did not work; Carnes and Lopez each received more than $20,000 for overtime hours they did not work; and Murphy, Nelson and Conway each received more than $15,000 for overtime hours they did not work.

The charge of conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine, while the conspiracy charge could come with a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine, according to Lelling’s office.

©2020 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.