An investigation that led to the recent suspension of three state troopers involves allegations that they sold several hundred used State Police guns to a Greenfield firearms dealer on behalf of the department, then received more than a dozen of those weapons, free of charge, for their personal use, according to two people familiar with the probe.
The attorney general’s office is focusing on how the guns — an assortment of pistols, rifles, and other firearms — were tagged as surplus and traded to Jurek Brothers during the summer of 2015, according to several people with knowledge of the case.
The company, which has a lucrative contract to sell firearms, ammunition, and other equipment to the State Police and other law enforcement agencies, did not pay for the used weapons but instead gave the department a credit toward the purchase of new weapons, those familiar with the investigation said.
Investigators are looking into whether the three members of the State Police armorer’s unit who negotiated the deal were authorized to do so and received a sufficient price for the weapons; and whether they violated state ethics law or department regulations by allegedly receiving free guns afterward, according to two of the people familiar with the case.
Those guns, and most of those that were traded to the company, were returned to the State Police as a result of the ongoing investigation, one person briefed on the details said.
Lawyers representing the troopers said they have done nothing wrong and it has been common practice for decades for the armorer’s unit to trade old guns to companies contracted to sell the department new ones.
The people familiar with the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
State Police spokesman David Procopio declined to identify the three troopers or provide details about the investigation, including whether they were authorized to trade in the weapons and how much the state received in exchange.
Earlier this month, following a Fox25 News report on the suspensions, Procopio issued a statement indicating that two troopers and a lieutenant assigned to the armory had been indefinitely suspended without pay amid an internal investigation into “the transfer of a limited number of surplus weapons to a state-authorized vendor.”
State Police officials asked that Attorney General Maura Healey review the case to determine if further action is warranted, Procopio said. A spokeswoman for Healey, Jillian Fennimore, said last week that the investigation is ongoing but declined to comment further.
On Monday, Procopio said that one of the suspended troopers retired from the department, but declined to identify him.
“He was given a general discharge,” Procopio said. The State Police continue to investigate the matter, he added.
Several people familiar with the investigation identified those suspended as Troopers Michael Wilmot and Robert Outwater and Lieutenant Paul Wosny, who has retired.
Boston attorney Leonard Kesten, who represents Wilmot and Outwater, said his clients had done nothing wrong.
“I’m confident my clients will be exonerated, as they were following instructions from supervisors,” he said.
Kesten said the armorer’s unit, located in New Braintree, has followed the practice of trading in surplus weapons to state-authorized vendors since long before his clients were assigned there.
“They understood that this procedure had been regularly used in the past,” Kesten said.
Needham attorney Timothy Burke, who represents Wosny, said his client has cooperated fully with the investigation and described him as “an exemplary member” of the State Police. Wosny has had no previous disciplinary history during his 23 years with the department, he said.
Burke said, “We are certainly not aware of any inappropriate exchange of any weapons of any kind.”
The department has traded in older, obsolete, or damaged weapons for decades, Burke said.
The vast majority of law enforcement agencies in the state do business with Jurek Brothers, Burke said. As a result, “they have a great deal of control over the actual market in terms of the exchange of these older guns, some of which are 30, 40 and 50 years old,” he said.
The value of older weapons is highly subjective and “it can come down to a take-it-or-leave-it situation as to what is being offered for them,” he said.
It’s unclear how many of the weapons were designated as surplus because they were old or had become obsolete. Several years ago, the State Police purchased 2,500 new Smith & Wesson pistols to replace Sig Sauer pistols as the department’s duty firearms.
Thomas Merrigan, an attorney at Sweeney Merrigan Law who represents Jurek Brothers, declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation but said he was not aware of “any allegations of wrongdoing” involving the company.
“They have been in business for a very long time and they have an excellent business reputation,” he said.
But several years ago, Jurek Brothers was at the center of a fraud investigation for allegedly giving personal benefits, including a trip to Florida and hundreds of dollars worth of Omaha Steaks, to a lieutenant who served as the Department of Correction’s purchasing agent.
The officer, Gary Mendes, admitted he received the gifts and pleaded guilty in 2011 to procurement fraud and conflict of interest and larceny and was placed on probation. No charges were brought against Jurek Brothers.
In October the company received a new, three-year contract to supply firearms, ammunition, equipment, and training to State Police, the Department of Correction, and the Environmental Police. Overall, the state has paid the company $2.9 million since 2010, according to purchasing records.
Procopio defended the State Police’s oversight of the armorer’s unit, which maintains the department’s massive inventory of weapons, ammunition, and body armor.
Under regulations that went into effect in 2009, the armorer’s unit must complete forms explaining why weapons are being sold, traded in, or destroyed.
“The department has clear and appropriate procedures and policies in place for weapons management,” Procopio said. “When members follow those policies, the department’s oversight system of armory functions and inventory, and weapons disposal, is more than satisfactory.”Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.