State Police overtime scandal keeps expanding

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.

SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey renews her attack on companies that sell electricity contracts door to door, urging passage of legislation that would bar such sales and effectively shut down the businesses. (CommonWealth)

A commission created by ballot question issues a report documenting a flood of campaign cash since the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but asks for more time to develop a strategy to overturn the ruling. (State House News)

Seniors descend on Beacon Hill to push for more state funds for Medicare savings plans that would ease the financial burden on older, low income people. (CommonWealth)

The American Lung Association gives Massachusetts a failing grade for spending so little of the  money from tobacco legal settlements on smoking cessation programs. (Eagle-Tribune)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Amherst is considering building a 200-car parking garage as part of an effort to revive the downtown. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Pittsfield approves a new contract to pick up recycled materials that will cost significantly more. (Berkshire Eagle)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

After weeks of President Trump declaring his July phone call with Ukraine’s president was “perfect,” his lawyers now say trading security aid for a promise to investigate Trump’s political rival — a quid pro quo — would not be an impeachable defense. (Washington Post)

US Rep. Richard Neal opens a transportation funding hearing by saying east-west rail expansion connecting Pittsfield to Springfield to Worcester to Boston is a priority for him. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Joe Biden is usually quick to remind voters he was joined at the hip with Barack Obama, but not when the topic turns to immigration policy and the former president’s reputation as “deporter- in-chief.” (Boston Globe)

Former congressman Barney Frank will reprise his past role of co-chairman of the rules committee at this year’s Democratic National Convention, a key role that Bernie Sanders supporters are not happy about the irascible former pol holding. (WBUR).

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Social Security helps lessens the wealth gap between whites and minorities, an effect that would be weakened by any pullback of benefits, according to a new study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

New England schools are cancelling study abroad trips in China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. (Boston Globe)

John Mendez, a current Lawrence High School student, and two 2019 graduates, Freddie Monroy and Kelvin Sabando, sing the praises of early college programs that allow students to take college classes while in high school and begin earning credits toward a degree. (Eagle-Tribune)

With the North Middle School in Brockton anticipated to sit empty for over a year before renovations on the building begin, school officials and members of the community have decided to make use of the empty space to open a community center. (The Enterprise)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

UMass Memorial Health Care is buying another central Massachusetts hospital — Harrington Health Care System in Southbridge. (MassLive)

ARTS/CULTURE

The publisher of the controversial book American Dirt cancels author Jeanine Cummins’ book tour, citing safety concerns. (CNN)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA pitched its plan to take over the Burgin Parkway site of a now-closed Lowe’s home improvement store and create a new bus depot in Quincy to a group of skeptical community members Wednesday night. (Patriot Ledger)

A Globe editorial praises the MBTA for its move to increase service on the Fairmount commuter rail line as a good test of the vision for expanded commuter rail service across the system. CommonWealth reported on Monday how the T is off to a slow start on the broader plan to expand commuter rail service across the state.

CASINOS

Penn National Gaming, which owns the slots parlor at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, buys a 36 percent stake in Bar Stool Sports in anticipation of legalized sports betting nationwide. (Business Insider)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Massachusetts is rolling out a new system that lets victims of sexual assault track the progress of their rape kits. (CommonWealth)

A family’s lawsuit alleges a son who was involuntarily committed to a state-run penal institution to kick a drug addiction was denied proper medical care and died. The case raises questions about inmate medical care and involuntary commitments. (CommonWealth)

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals next week will take up the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s appeal of a federal court decision that the Interior Department was not authorized to take the tribe’s land into trust. (Cape Cod Times)

MEDIA

The Oracle of Omaha sees little to recommend in newspaper investments as Warren Buffett dumps all his newspaper holdings. (Washington Post)

DigBoston editor Jason Pramas criticizes a column written in Boston Herald by Ben Shapiro in which Shapiro calls employees working low-wage jobs part of a “voluntary exchange for labor.”