Photo Gallery | Former Pittsfield Police Officer Jeffrey Coco charged
PITTSFIELD — Handcuffed and shackled, a former city police officer appeared in court Wednesday to face charges that he stole more than $220,000 from the police union account he was entrusted to manage.
Jeffrey D. Coco, 43, was arrested at his home Wednesday morning on embezzlement, fraud and forgery charges in connection with the alleged thefts from the police union account between January 2011 and July 2015.
He is accused of laundering union funds through a personal account and falsifying documents by forging an attorney's signature.
Coco appeared at his arraignment on Wednesday with his attorney, Lori Levinson.
Following the brief hearing, Levinson didn't comment directly on the accusations, but she lamented the approach police took to get Coco into court.
"I'm very disappointed that law enforcement saw fit to send a team of officers to Jeff's house this morning to arrest him and bring him into court in handcuffs and shackles," Levinson said. "He's been nothing but cooperative with the investigation and they know that he wasn't going to flee or cause any harm, and he certainly would have come in under his own steam."
Coco served with the Pittsfield Police Department for approximately 18 years, beginning as a dispatcher for four years followed by 14 years as an officer. He was working in the patrol division and traffic unit at the time of his dismissal last fall.
According to prosecutors, he began withdrawing funds for "unsanctioned personal use" from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 447 while serving as its treasurer beginning in July 2008.
An internal investigation into the alleged thefts was launched last summer after the department was notified by the union regarding suspected problems with the accounts.
That investigation led to Coco's firing on Nov. 24 and also prompted a criminal investigation.
The probe into the union's checking accounts showed that out of 572 cash withdrawals that were made, 262 have been verified by bank tellers as having Coco's signature. Investigators said they expect that number will increase as more tellers are interviewed to verify those remaining slips.
Investigators say that beginning in May 2011, Coco began to write checks from the union account both to himself and his girlfriend, Kelly, whom he later married. At least one check written from the union account was deposited by Kelly Coco into a personal account at a Greylock Federal Credit Union account, leading to the money laundering charge.
The investigation determined Coco also cashed union checks at two area businesses and made purchases with union checks at local stores, including a pair of supermarkets, Best Buy, Home Depot and Walmart.
Prior to Coco's involvement, the only purchases made at local businesses from union accounts were for uniforms and trophies from a local trophy shop.
The investigation found that there would have been no legitimate union business that would have required Coco to make any purchases from those businesses from the union account.
Coco incurred the forgery charge for allegedly transmitting a fax in September 2013 to the holder of his retirement account requesting $30,000 to be used to cover a retainer for legal services from an area attorney.
When investigators contacted the attorney, they learned that Coco had never hired them for any legal services and they had not signed the letter that was included in the fax.
Coco pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court to charges of embezzlement in excess of $250 by an association officer, money laundering and forgery of a document.
Judge William A. Rota released him on personal recognizance and ordered him to return to court on May 10 for a pretrial hearing.
In a prepared statement, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn thanked investigators for their efforts.
"On behalf of the Pittsfield Police Department, I would like to thank the Massachusetts State Police personnel assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office for their persistence in pursuing this criminal investigation," he said. "We look forward to putting this episode behind us, and moving forward by continuing to provide exceptional police services to the residents of Pittsfield."
Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.