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Five more linked to burgeoning Boston police pay fraud scandal, including former union president

The scandal is centered on the long-troubled evidence unit in a Hyde Park warehouse.
The scandal is centered on the long-troubled evidence unit in a Hyde Park warehouse.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Another five members of the Boston Police Department’s long-troubled evidence unit have been implicated in a burgeoning overtime fraud scandal, including a former police union president and the ex-wife of the city’s most recent police commissioner, records show.

Using cellphone records and forensic analysis of attendance and pay records, federal prosecutors have so far charged 13 current or former officers assigned to the evidence unit with collecting more than $270,000 in fraudulent overtime pay over a five-year period. But court documents reviewed by the Globe show that an additional five officers were the target of federal investigators, who alleged they stole a combined $36,000 over three years. However, none of those five has been charged with a crime.

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They include Thomas Nee, the former president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union, who collected more than $3,590 in fraudulent overtime pay over a two-year period, according to an affidavit. Nee, who retired from the department last month, did not respond to requests for comment.

Also implicated is Sybil Mason, the ex-wife of fired commissioner Dennis White. Federal investigators seized Mason’s cellphone records as part of their ongoing probe and alleged in an affidavit that she collected $7,208 in overtime pay that she didn’t earn. Mason, who did not respond to several messages, remains with the department.

Federal investigators also identified three others who allegedly received pay they did not earn: Andre Williams, accused of collecting $11,181 in fraudulent overtime pay; Darius Agnew, who allegedly collected $9,702; and Kennedy Semedo, accused of pocketing $4,594.

Agnew and Williams both retired from the department in 2019, according to city records. Semedo is on active duty. Each either declined to comment or didn’t respond to messages.

The documents suggest that investigators have unearthed evidence of abuses that extend well beyond those officers who have been charged to date.

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The five names appear in affidavits filed last year in the US District Court of Massachusetts by Department of Justice special agent Shena Latta that were submitted as part of search warrant applications for cellphone location records for 15 officers within the BPD’s evidence unit.

The documents were filed under seal and made public in October. However, they are not linked directly in the federal court records system to any of the pending cases. A Globe reporter only recently discovered the affidavits.

Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, has repeatedly declined to discuss the overtime scandal, citing the ongoing investigation. A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts also declined to respond to questions due to the continuing investigation, as did a spokeswoman for the FBI.

Two former federal prosecutors told the Globe this week that there are several reasons why some officers may be implicated but still avoid charges.

“Sometimes the evidence [federal authorities] obtain doesn’t corroborate their original theory, or the amounts involved are too minimal to get their attention,” said Brian T. Kelly, the former chief of the public corruption unit of the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts and a partner at Nixon Peabody.

Tony Fuller, a partner at Hogan Lovells who coprosecuted former House speaker Sal DiMasi on corruption charges, said some people could be negotiating pleas or cooperating with authorities. “Or there might be mitigating facts and circumstances that make federal prosecution of the offenses inappropriate for certain individuals,” Fuller added.

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At least two unnamed officers from the evidence unit, court records show, are cooperating with the government in exchange for avoiding prosecution in the case.

Nine of the officers named in Latta’s affidavits were arrested last September and charged with embezzlement and conspiracy to commit theft of federal program funds. In the months since, four additional officers — including a retired captain who oversaw the department’s evidence warehouse — have also been charged.

Nee’s connection to the overtime scheme represents the latest blow to the department’s politically powerful patrolmen’s union. Last August, Patrick M. Rose, who replaced Nee as union president in 2014, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of indecent assault on a child under 14.

Nee, who also served as president of the National Association of Police Organizations, rose to prominence here in the early 2000s, amid the union’s fierce contract battles with then-mayor Thomas M. Menino.

As union president, Nee helped organize a variety of protests, in one case attempting to bar Menino in 2003 from the city’s annual Labor Day breakfast. In 2000, he pushed hard against then-commissioner Paul Evans’s calls for police reforms aimed at holding problem officers more accountable.

Nee, who argued that the department’s internal discipline process was unfair to rank-and-file officers, said in an interview at the time that “if a cop took the tack of Paul Evans, he would find his ass in federal prison.”

Larry Calderone, the union’s current president, did not respond to a request for comment.

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The widening overtime scandal comes as the department has continually vowed to curb such abuses.

Despite a number of embarrassing episodes, including a 2015 department audit that showed officers were routinely paid for time they didn’t work, it remains unclear what steps the department has taken to curb such abuses.

Last year, the department touted the 2019 promotion of Marcus Eddings to superintendent, tasked with overseeing overtime and paid detail earnings as a significant step in shoring up abuses. But in his first 14 months on the job, Eddings failed to open a single investigation into overtime irregularities, a spokesman for the agency confirmed last year. The department has repeatedly declined to discuss Eddings’s more recent work.

For now, it remains unclear how long — or deeply — federal investigators intend to dig, though recent signs point to a widening scope; according to court filings, authorities have begun to examine overtime records going further back in time.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who in recent weeks has been engulfed in a messy legal battle with White, has so far been silent on the growing overtime scandal. On Tuesday, her administration declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.


Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com.