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Former New Bedford police officer sentenced for embezzling nearly $50,000 in union funds

A former New Bedford police officer and department union treasurer was sentenced to federal prison Monday after he pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $50,000 in union funds over a period of several years, prosecutors said.

Joshua Fernandes, 41, was sentenced in US District Court in Boston to three months in prison and two years of supervised release, US Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office said in a statement. The first six months of his supervised release will be served via home confinement, with location monitoring for the first three months, the statement said.

He was also ordered to pay $47,851 in restitution, prosecutors said.

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“Mr. Fernandes took an oath to protect and serve the people of New Bedford,” Rollins said in the statement. “Instead, he violated the trust bestowed upon him by both the New Bedford community and his fellow officers.”

Fernandes is relieved that this case has come to a conclusion, and on Monday he expressed “sincere remorse” for his actions, his attorney, Erin Opperman, wrote in an e-mail.

“My client made serious mistakes that led to the conviction in this case, however, there were also over 30 letters submitted by his family, friends, and current and former colleagues, including the current NBPD union president, on his behalf,” Opperman wrote.

Those letters “detail his good character,” including years of community service, constant ability to help those around him, and his constant desire to serve, Opperman wrote.

“It is unfortunate that my client’s extraordinary career ended as it did,” she wrote.

Fernandes suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress for many years as a result of being shot in the face while on duty, Opperman wrote. He has “worked hard to create a support system that will allow him to move forward with his life,” she wrote.

With the sentencing, the judge “addressed the seriousness of my client’s crime and his failure in his duty, but also recognized his good character, service, extraordinary sacrifice, and sincere remorse,” Opperman wrote, adding that she believed her client received a fair sentence, “considering all the complex issues at play in this case.”

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Fernandes pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October. Prosecutors said he “abused his position” as treasurer of the New Bedford Police Department’s union by using funds to pay for personal expenses, including vacations, family outings, and monthly phone bills.

He did this by using the union’s credit cards to pay for non-union expenses, prosecutors said, and by reimbursing his personal credit cards with union funds.

“What he did is abhorrent, and today’s sentencing should be a warning to others that the FBI is committed to rooting out public corruption and preserving trust in law enforcement,” Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said in a statement.


Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.