Nine current and retired officers were charged this week in connection with an alleged overtime fraud scheme at the Boston Police Department's evidence warehouse.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday officers assigned to the Boston Police Department’s Evidence Control Unit embezzled over $200,000 between 2016 and 2019.
Here's what we know.
Who has been charged, and what are they accused of?
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, were each charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday with one count of conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds.
Prosecutors allege that the nine officers collectively embezzled over $200,000 in overtime pay between May of 2016 and February of 2019. Torigian alone received more than $43,000 for overtime hours he never worked. Twitchell, O'Brien and Doherty each received over $25,000; Carnes and Lopez over $20,000; and Murphy, Nelson and Conway over $15,000 for hours they didn't work.
According to the indictment, the officers charged were assigned to Boston Police Department’s Evidence Control Unit, where they were responsible for storing, cataloging and retrieving evidence at the warehouse. Evidence control officers were eligible to earn overtime pay of one and a half times their regular hourly pay rate for overtime assignments. Prosecutors allege that beginning in at least May 2016, 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.
One overtime shift, called “purge” overtime, was focused on reducing the inventory of the evidence warehouse, prosecutors said. The shift was supposed to be performed from 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays. But 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. The defendants routinely submitted false and fraudulent overtime slips claiming to have worked from 4 to 8 p.m. 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.
Another shift, called “kiosk” overtime, was available to two Evidence Control Unit officers one Saturday a month from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This shift involved collecting materials, such as unused prescription drugs, from kiosks in each police district in the city and then transporting the materials to an incinerator in Saugus. Prosecutors said defendants who performed this overtime shift routinely submitted overtime slips claiming to have worked eight and a half hours when in fact they frequently completed the work and left the shift early, often before 10 a.m.
The charges were brought by federal prosecutors because from 2016 to 2018, Boston police received grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Justice.
What happens next?
O'Brien, Doherty and Nelson all entered not guilty pleas during their appearances via video in federal court in Boston later in the day and were released on personal recognizance. The judge said they must surrender their passports and firearms, not have contact with co-defendants or witnesses, and report to probation. Their next court appearance is Oct. 15.
The others were also scheduled to make initial court appearances via video in federal court in Boston later in the day.
Boston Police Commissioner William 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 the U.S. Attorney's Office involved in the investigation.
Gross called the allegations and behavior alleged in the indictments "very troubling" and said it does not reflect the attitudes of the entire 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," he added in a statement. "News of these indictments send 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."
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the allegations are "an affront to the thousands of police officers who do their jobs every day with honesty, integrity and bravery," and said he is "outraged" and "outright disgusted at the utter breach of trust by these nine individuals at the Boston Police Department."
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said she was "deeply dismayed by the allegations," adding that if they were true, the officers involved "have dishonored the badge."
"In these uncertain times we as a nation find ourselves in, with so much tension and mistrust between law enforcement and the communities we are sworn to protect and serve, today's indictments are a blow to the credibility of our noble profession," Rollins said in a statement. "We in law enforcement cannot adequately perform our duties if the community does not trust us or believes that we lack integrity That does nothing to keep our communities safe; to solve our crimes; and to foster, cultivate and build mutual trust and respect between the police and the people they serve."
Gov. Charlie Baker added: “I think it’s a giant black eye once again by a small group of people for a much larger community that I believe tries to do the right thing every day.
“If these folks engaged in what I would call theft, then they should be punished for that.”
Officer's past testimony 'now suspect'
The credibility of nine officers is now in question and testimony they've given in the past is "now suspect."
She said her office will add the officers' names to a list of those whose past conduct must be disclosed to defendants. The district attorney will also notify two prominent criminal defense organizations in the state about the arrests, allowing lawyers to review their role in past criminal cases.
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"I intend to right any wrongs that have been created because of potential misconduct," Rollins said.
Not the first evidence scandal in Mass.
Eight years ago, misconduct by former state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan created fallout for some 23,000 cases. Thousands more were tainted by a worker who stole drugs from the state crime lab in Amherst a few years later.
And in Braintree, revelations emerged in 2017 that guns, drugs and more than $400,000 in cash were stolen from the police department's evidence room. That meant dozens more cases were tossed.
In Boston, the nine police officers charged Tuesday by the U.S. attorney have not been accused of tampering with evidence. But the allegations could open the door for defendants to challenge their credibility in court, criminal defense lawyer Peter Elikann said.
Elikann previously represented a client whose criminal case in Braintree was dismissed. He said at trial, police must show how evidence was handled. And if officers lie about their working hours, the chain of custody could be in doubt.
"It raises the question, although there is no proof at this time, that the integrity of the evidence was compromised in some way," he said.