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Saturday, June 15 Local

Warrants: 4 Stamford cops took $188K from utility in extra-duty scam

STAMFORD — A scheme that has resulted in larceny and conspiracy charges against four now-retired police officers unraveled with a review of the department’s extra-duty program, according to arrest warrants released Tuesday.

The former officers are charged with submitting a total of 643 false payroll vouchers that amount to $187,618, nearly all of it paid by the natural-gas affiliate of Eversource, the utility company that regularly hires a large number of extra-duty officers.

The arrest warrants reveal that the ex-cops, who worked in the division that administers the extra-duty program, manipulated the system to take advantage of a requirement that contractors who cancel jobs at the last minute pay officers for four hours’ work.

According to the warrants, David Sileo, Paul Pavia, Mark Ligi and Christopher Broems “actively took part in this scheme” by claiming cancellation fees they were not owed. Sileo, Pavia and Ligi falsely completed and signed extra-duty vouchers for each other and for Broems, and failed to record the required paperwork, the warrants state.

Each was charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny.

For a reason that so far is unclear, someone — whether in the police department or City Hall — began an audit of the process by which off-duty officers are assigned jobs directing traffic around construction sites or providing security for events. Known as extra-duty work, it pays $68 an hour.

The warrants reveal that the audit turned up something unusual — a handful of officers who had worked in Central Hiring Office were collecting an inordinate amount of cancellation fees. Police union rules mandate that contractors be billed for four hours of an officer’s time if they cancel a job later than 10 p.m. the previous day.

Internal probe

According to the warrants, the audit turned up information alarming enough that, on March 18, Assistant Police Chief James Matheny directed the Internal Affairs Division to begin an administrative inquiry into the possibility that two officers, Sileo and Pavia, who’d worked in Central Hiring Office since October 2012, were improperly submitting vouchers for canceled jobs.

A week after Matheny’s order, Sileo and Pavia were reassigned, according to the warrants.

The Internal Affairs investigation also turned up questions about vouchers submitted by Ligi, who worked in Central Hiring Office from October 2013 to March 2018, and Broems, a sergeant who helped oversee the office from October 2013 to March 2015.

The arrest warrants reveal that three other sergeants assigned to Central Hiring Office had submitted no vouchers for canceled extra-duty jobs, but Broems had 34.

Investigators found that other officers assigned to Central Hiring Office had submitted very few vouchers for payment for canceled jobs, but Ligi, according to the warrants, had 132, Pavia had 221, and Sileo had 256.

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Income added

The warrants allege that Sileo, 56, who’d been a Stamford police officer for 29 years, was improperly paid $64,976 by Eversource between January 2014 and his reassignment on March 25.

According to the warrants, Pavia, 53, also with the department for 29 years, falsely charged Eversource $56,000 in cancellation fees for the same period.

Ligi, 55, who was with the department for 33 years, is charged with falsely collecting $33,084 from Eversource.

And Broems, 51, who spent 21 years with the department, is charged with collecting $7,680 in false cancellation fees from Eversource and $480 from an upstate contractor, Erland Construction, for a total of $8,160.

According to information provided in the warrants, the officers together allegedly collected $162,220. But Eversource and Erland also paid the 16 percent administrative fee the city charges for extra-duty jobs, which amounted to another $25,955.

Another audit

Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said Tuesday that the utility company “will review all the details and evaluate available options for reimbursement.”

Mayor David Martin released a statement Tuesday saying he has directed the city’s legal department “to initiate legal action to recover monies inappropriately taken from the department by these officers’ actions.” The city is conducting “a detailed audit of extra-duty jobs to prevent this type of issue from occurring again,” Martin said.

Erland Construction did not return a call requesting comment.

Attorneys for the former officers could not be reached for comment.

A message seeking comment left Tuesday at the office of interim police Chief Gregory Tomlin was not returned.

The police department’s Internal Affairs Division issued a statement saying the former officers were released after their arrests on promises to appear in court on June 24.

The warrants reveal that billing for extra-duty jobs is handled by a company called Avalon IT Systems, which has an office in police headquarters. Avalon bills the contractors and others who request officers for extra-duty work. The contractors then pay the city, and the city pays the officers.

Avalon helped investigators track down the vouchers in question, the warrants state.

Do not enter

Extra-duty jobs, along with overtime, sick leave, and more, are filed using a software program called Telestaff, according to the warrants. But investigators found that the vouchers in question were not recorded in Telestaff.

A clerk in Central Hiring Office told investigators that she did not enter the cancellation vouchers into Telestaff because Sileo and Pavia had instructed her instead to give them the sheets that list the extra-duty requests for the day.

The warrants allege that the former officers filled out the vouchers with their own names after jobs were canceled. Since the jobs were not assigned to an officer before they were canceled, Eversource should not have been charged for the four hours’ pay, the warrants state.

On April 3, Sileo, Pavia and Ligi were relieved of duty, and turned in their weapons, badges and ID cards. All three retired April 30. Broems was relieved of duty April 10 and retired May 10.

City payroll records show that Pavia earned $216,000 last year with overtime and extra-duty pay, on a base salary of $86,600. Ligi earned $208,000 on base pay of $84,750. Sileo earned $196,900 on a base of $87,900, and Broems earned $250,500 on a base salary of $98,400.

The city “places its trust in Stamford’s police force to act morally and protect us from injustice. These officers have abused that trust and embodied the injustice they were meant to prevent,” Martin said. “Their actions are completely unacceptable, and risk degrading the public’s trust in our most vital institution — the men and women who makeup Stamford’s police and risk their lives every day to keep our community safe. I will not let their unjust actions reflect on our police department.”

acarella@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2296.

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