February 27, 2014

Elizabeth Police Officers Admit to Theft by Deception

Two Elizabeth police officers have admitted to claiming pay for security work they never performed, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Thursday.

Christopher Flatley, 44, and Michael Tropeano, 50, each pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of third-degree theft by deception.

Complaints against the two officers were signed a day earlier, following the conclusion of a six-month investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit. The matter was referred to the unit by the Elizabeth Police Department in September 2013.

The investigation centered on security details Flatley, Tropeano, and other officers worked at four city senior housing complexes from January through August 2013; the details were not part of the officers’ regular law-enforcement duties, but rather optional additional shifts.

Flatley and Tropeano both earned a rate of $30 an hour to perform the security work; they and the other officers were paid with federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds issued via the Elizabeth Housing Authority. The investigation revealed that both men would submit invoices for dates on which they arrived for the details significantly late, left work significantly early, or failed to show up at all.

Contrary to media reports that upwards of 20 or 30 officers were engaged in alleged wrongdoing of a similar nature, the investigation did not reveal evidence of other instances of criminal conduct. All other outstanding issues regarding the work details have been referred back to the Elizabeth Police Department for its own review.

“Violations of the public trust are matters we take extremely seriously, and for good reason – the public needs to know that those performing work on their behalf are doing so in a responsible and ethical manner,” Park said. “This office is committed to rooting out every form of such criminal conduct.”

Both Flatley, a 25-year veteran of the Elizabeth Police Department, and Tropeano, a 15-year veteran, have been ordered by state Superior Court Judge Robert J. Mega to resign, and they will be barred from ever again holding public office or public employment in New Jersey.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for March 7, when Mega also is expected to order Flatley and Tropeano to repay restitution in the amounts of $2,235 and $1,260, respectively. The defendants also will be sentenced to a minimum of one year of probation.