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Boston police officers acquitted in overtime fraud case

Henry Doherty, a retired Boston police officer, and three others were acquitted of embezzlement charges Thursday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

After roughly four hours of deliberations, a jury on Thursday acquitted four former and current Boston police officers accused of running an overtime pay scam out of the department’s evidence warehouse.

Timothy Torigian, Robert Twitchell, Henry Doherty, and Kendra Conway hugged each other and their families after the verdict was read in federal court in Boston, clearing each officer of all of the three charges against them.

The defendants had been accused of knowingly stealing from the city by filing false overtime slips to collect thousands of dollars for hours they didn’t work.

All of their attorneys, speaking to news reporters outside of the courtroom after the verdict was announced, thanked the jury for coming to a different conclusion and praised their clients for taking the case to trial.


“The feds got over their skis a bit on it,” said Liam Scully, attorney for Twitchel. He said the officers’ behavior was “in accordance with the written and unwritten policies of the department.”

Lawyers for the four had told jurors that there was no dispute they were paid for overtime hours they didn’t work, but said they were merely following longstanding practices accepted by top brass.

For years officers assigned to the evidence control unit were paid for full four- or eight-hour overtime shifts, even when they were allowed to leave after just an hour or two, and nobody ever questioned it, an attorney for Torigian, a former lieutenant, said during opening statements two weeks ago.

“Not a superintendent, not a deputy superintendent and certainly not the commissioner ever told them there was anything inappropriate or incorrect about those practices,” said the attorney, Robert Goldstein. “In practice it was a time-honored tradition that officers could, would and did submit overtime” in four- or eight-hour blocks.

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said in a statement after the verdict that, “I respect the criminal justice process and the jury has clearly spoken. Because there is an additional defendant scheduled for trial, we won’t comment on the case.”


He added that “while the federal criminal justice process continues, we have begun our administrative review of the officers’ conduct and additional evidence as it relates to the rules and regulations of the Department to determine appropriate next steps.”

US Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office declined to comment, but Cox said he spoke with her and “she shared her and her team’s disappointment in the outcome.”

The 2020 indictment had charged Torigian, 57, of Walpole; Twitchell, 61, of Norton; Doherty, 64, of Dorchester; and Conway, 52, of Boston, with conspiracy to commit embezzlement, embezzlement, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Twitchell and Doherty are both retired, Conway has been suspended by the department and Torigan resigned after he was indicted.

They were among 15 current and former Boston police officers charged in the alleged overtime scheme involving the evidence control unit. Nine of them have pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges and are awaiting sentencing. One retired officer died last year while the charges were pending. One other person charged in the scheme, former captain Richard Evans, is awaiting trial.

The nine officers who previously pleaded guilty testified at the trial for the government.

Federal prosecutors had argued that the defendants engaged in a scheme to willfully put in for more hours than officers were working. This wasn’t “some kind of misunderstanding,” prosecutors from Rollins’ office argued, but “stealing” through the filing of false overtime slips.


But the defense countered that actions were a normal process within the department, that superiors had told the officers in question that they could put in for full four-hour chunks even if they finished up early.

The indictment was handed down three years ago amid national calls for police reform and on the heels of a sweeping overtime scandal involving the Massachusetts State Police. In that separate case, 46 troopers were implicated during an internal audit, and ultimately 10 faced federal or state charges and pleaded guilty.

In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration has sought to implement changes to the police overtime system through the collective bargaining process. The issue is at the center of prolonged negotiations with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union, which have moved toward arbitration.

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.

Sean Cotter can be reached at him @cotterreporter.