Reading about the Massachusetts State Police overtime scandal is like opening a Pandora’s box that can never be shut. This week, out of the box popped a lieutenant who allegedly stole $12,000 worth of holiday pay he wasn’t entitled to after — yes, after — the State Police began their internal investigation.
And then there was a new court filing by US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office, which reveals that records “unearthed” by the State Police a year and a half after prosecutors asked for them are particularly damning in the ongoing payroll fraud scheme. Payroll and cruiser radio data have led prosecutors to more than double the amount of overtime pay they say former trooper Daren DeJong embezzled.
Prosecutors initially believed DeJong was paid $14,062 for hours he didn’t work back in 2016. He was charged and pleaded guilty for embezzling that amount. Then they estimated he stole about $31,000 between 2015 to 2017. Now prosecutors say that figure has more than doubled to $63,600 as the long-lost records show incriminating evidence going back as far as 2013. As DeJong’s sentencing approaches next week, the new figures could bear some weight.
DeJong is one of 46 troopers and officers embroiled in the ongoing overtime abuse that took place within the now-defunct Troop E, and was investigated internally by state police beginning in 2017.
Several current and retired troopers have pleaded guilty to skipping or leaving overtime shifts early and creating fake traffic citations for periods they never worked.
The long delay in turning over the additional records has raised questions about the quality of the department’s investigation into its own personnel. “The Department initiated the investigation in 2018 with the referral of voluminous data, and several times subsequently has provided additional potential evidence whenever we became aware of it,” said State Police spokesman David Procopio, adding that previous records made criminal convictions and terminations against those officers possible. Ten have been criminally charged so far.
In May, US District Judge Mark Wolf suggested the fraud scandal could amount to “a conspiracy” going back at least 10 years, and urged prosecutors to look at older records. At the time it was believed the investigation would be constrained by the State Police practice of destroying records after three years.
Meanwhile, former State Police lieutenant David Wilson avoided jail time after pleading guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $31,000 in overtime pay and was sentenced by a Superior Court judge to two years of probation, ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and repay the state almost $19,000. He’s the only officer facing federal and state charges. Last year, he was ordered to pay over $12,000 in restitution and was sentenced to two years of probation by a federal judge.
Wilson had already been earning big bucks when he committed the fraud — $270,000, including $120,000 in overtime pay.
Another lieutenant, John Giulino, also avoided time behind bars by pleading guilty in December. He was ordered to pay $29,100 in restitution and serve community service.
Finally, the Boston Herald reported retired State Police Lieutenant David Andrade claimed to be at work when he was actually on a cruise in Bermuda. He’s accused of stealing nearly $12,000 in holiday pay for time off he wasn’t entitled to. Andrade, who was the station commander at the Dartmouth Barracks, committed the alleged scheme between August 2018 and August 2019, after the State Police began their own internal investigation into fraud.
The State Police are taking toddler steps toward transparency by allowing nearly 2,900 cruisers to be tracked, an idea mentioned by Gov. Charlie Baker when he unveiled reforms for the State Police in 2018. Col. Christopher Mason, who is heading the department, says the tracking effort “will dovetail nicely” with his own accountability efforts.