Four more Massachusetts State Police troopers were temporarily relieved of duty Monday and placed under internal investigation as part of a growing overtime fraud scandal.
Investigators conducting an internal audit found discrepancies between the troopers’ overtime pay and their actual hours worked, the department said in a news release.
Forty-six current and former troopers are now linked to the payroll fraud investigation and have had details of their alleged misconduct forwarded to state and federal prosecutors, the department said.
All belonged to former Troop E, a division that patrolled the Massachusetts Turnpike until it was disbanded this spring. Roughly one-third of that unit’s members have been accused of collecting overtime pay for hours and shifts they did not work. Four have been charged in federal court and another has pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
The state’s largest law enforcement agency said it plans to schedule internal disciplinary hearings for the four troopers relieved of duty Monday.
The hearings will determine whether the troopers will be suspended with or without pay, or allowed to remain on the job, while the allegations are investigated. Spokesman David Procopio declined to release the identities of the latest troopers placed under scrutiny.
The Troop E overtime scandal has prompted a wide-scale audit, a series of internal State Police investigations, and separate probes by the state attorney general and the US attorney’s office.
Records show troopers regularly reported earning five- and six-figure overtime payouts.
Some troopers flagged by the department in recent months have retired before disciplinary hearings could be held. Others have been suspended without pay.
“Today’s actions are the result of our continued review of records and data indicative of whether department members were present and working overtime shifts for which they were paid,” Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin said in a news release. “Our commitment to the public, and to the vast majority of troopers who conduct themselves with integrity and dedication to duty every day, is to identify anyone who has violated their oath, and we continue to do just that.”
The Boston Globe reported Monday that State Police officials had received warnings about payroll issues in recent years. Despite the red flags, there is scant evidence that department leaders acted to address a culture of impunity.
For example, two troopers caught taking cash for unauthorized funeral escorts, John Adams and John Arone, were disciplined for those misdeeds. But when internal investigators also uncovered suspected overtime abuses by Adams and Arone, nothing was done. Following questions from the Globe, the department said last week it turned the matter over to prosecutors.
At least eight troopers flagged for extraordinary overtime in internal inspections since 2011 are currently under investigation for suspected fraudulent overtime, records show.
Former colonel Richard McKeon launched an audit of overtime pay — before he abruptly retired amid accusations he forced troopers to remove embarrassing information from a police report involving the daughter of a Dudley District Court judge.
Gilpin, who was appointed to the job in November, expanded the investigation.
Gilpin said she has begun requiring that troopers show up for a face-to-face roll call at some point in each eight-hour shift.
Also, she said inspectors now track the 50 highest earners four times a year and will soon have access to GPS devices.