California charges 6 ex-highway officers with overtime fraud
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Six former California Highway Patrol offices were criminally charged with nearly 100 felonies Thursday with bilking the state out of about $23,400 by exaggerating their overtime hours, the state attorney general said.
The six officers working out of East Los Angeles would typically work three to four hours providing protection for state highway workers during road construction projects. But prosecutors say they then billed the state for eight hours of overtime.
The practice went on for longer than two years before ending in March 2018 and triggering a CHP investigation two months later.
The CHP said in early 2019 that it had temporarily relieved “dozens” of officers from duty while it investigated whether they had billed the state for hundreds of hours of suspected bogus overtime costing about $360,000, according to news accounts at the time. They said at the time that the abuse seemed to be isolated to officers covering the Los Angeles area and the agency had changed its overtime practices in response.
The charges against the six officers are part of an ongoing investigation, the attorney general’s office said.
“Trust is a fundamental part of effective law enforcement,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement praising the CHP for its investigation. “Californians should be able to depend on CHP officers to keep our roads and highways safe, and when officers don’t adhere to the law themselves, it erodes our communities’ trust.”
The six face 97 felony counts, including one count each of grand theft and multiple counts of presentation of a fraudulent claim, one for each time they submitted an overtime claim. Grand theft applies to any theft above $950.
Two of the six retired during the investigation, and the other four officers were fired as a result of the investigation, said Sgt. Robert Ruiz, a CHP spokesman.
The six were sent notices to appear for arraignment on Sept. 2. The attorney general’s office and CHP did not know if they had attorneys.
Carrie Lane, chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union representing uniformed officers, did not respond to requests for comment.