Metro

Key evidence in alleged trooper overtime scam came from cruiser radios

Whenever a state trooper turns on his cruiser, the radio in it automatically turns on and sends a signal to a central State Police receiver, an FBI agent said.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Whenever a state trooper turns on his cruiser, the radio in it automatically turns on and sends a signal to a central State Police receiver, an FBI agent said.

The three Massachusetts state troopers who are facing federal embezzlement charges for allegedly charging tens of thousands of dollars of fake overtime were betrayed by trusted tools: their cruisers and their radios, according to federal investigators.

Records from the radios were a key part of the paper trail laid out in the affidavits supporting the criminal complaints against the troopers.

Whenever a trooper turns on his cruiser, the radio in it automatically turns on and sends a signal to a central State Police receiver, an FBI agent said in the affidavits.

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Records were kept for “each on/off transaction for each individual MSP cruiser radio, as well as which radio tower the radio signal was transmitted from,” the affidavits said.

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The affidavits also said that “because the radios connect through a series of towers throughout the state, the radio data also provided general location information, e.g., placing an MSP cruiser radio (and the cruiser to which it is assigned) within a general region inside the area covered by a particular radio tower.”

Troopers maintained control of their assigned cruisers every day and commuted to and from work in them. They were also required to have their radios on during both regular and overtime shifts, the affidavits said.

The federal investigators looked at troopers’ radio “activity/inactivity patterns, as well as radio transmission location patterns,” the affidavits said.

The affidavits cited a number of instances in which the cruiser radio records conflicted with what the troopers had claimed for their overtime, suggesting that the troopers’ cars were parked silently somewhere when the troopers claimed they were driving them, patrolling the highways.

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Here’s a typical example:

Trooper Paul E. Cesan allegedly claimed overtime for an eight-hour overtime day shift that he worked immediately after a midnight shift on Jan. 31, 2016. The overtime shift was supposed to begin that day at 7 a.m., but his cruiser radio data showed that his radio was shut off that day at 6:59 a.m. and not turned on again until the next afternoon at 4:21 p.m., the affidavit in his case said.

“Thus, the entire time that Cesan claimed to be working [an overtime shift] on January 31, 2016, Cesan’s MSP cruiser radio was off — signifying that he was not driving or operating his cruiser,” the affidavit in his case said.

Federal investigators also found clues in the computers contained in the cruisers. The computers let troopers access information such as “Massachusetts driving records, records of vehicle registration and ownership, Massachusetts criminal records, and even out-of-state license plates, driver histories, and criminal records,” the affidavits said.

At the same time, the Criminal Justice Information Services system logs information about who’s using it and what it’s being used for. It logs the identity of the trooper using the system, what the trooper looked up, the time and date of the query, and the information that was returned, the affidavits said. The federal investigators cited both CJIS inactivity and patterns of suspicious activity in making their case.

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The affidavits focused mainly on records — the cruiser radio records, CJIS records, and other records, including cruiser refueling records. But the FBI agent noted in the affidavits that the probe had also included “interviews of both current and former members” of the State Police.