Pittsfield police officer fired; allegedly stole $150,000 from union
PITTSFIELD — Police Officer Jeffrey Coco, a former officer union president, has been fired after an Internal Affairs Department investigation produced evidence that he stole more than $150,000 in union funds over three or more years.
An investigation into possible criminal charges is ongoing, Chief Michael Wynn said Monday, adding that he could not comment further at this time.
"Following a lengthy internal investigation and a local civil service hearing, Coco was found responsible for multiple misconduct charges," Wynn stated in a release.
Coco was officially terminated from service in the department on Tuesday, the chief said.
In a September report on an internal affairs investigation headed by Lt. Michael Grady, the lieutenant concludes: "The facts and circumstances of my internal affairs investigation show that Officer Coco committed larceny over $250 by a single scheme during the time he was a member of the IBPO (International Brotherhood of Police Officers) Local 447 Executive Board (2011-2015)."
Grady adds, "Although the total monetary amounts are not available at this time, a preliminary tally shows that Officer Coco has stolen in excess of $150,000 from the union."
A copy of the report was obtained through a public records request by The Eagle. Portions of the report were redacted in the copy supplied to the newspaper because the investigation in ongoing. Grady further states that "the cash withdrawals made by Officer Coco and the checks written out to Officer Coco and his wife show that the money withdrawn from the union account was not for legitimate union business but instead for Officer Coco's personal use. Officer Coco has acknowledged his involvement by asking me personally during a telephone call conversation if the money can be paid back and if he could keep his job."
Grady reported that the internal affairs findings support allegations that Coco violated department regulations barring conduct unbecoming an officer and involvement in criminal activity.
Coco could not be reached for comment Monday.
In announcing during the summer that Coco had been placed on administrative leave, Wynn said he was notified on July 14 of problems with union accounts by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers office in Springfield. The accounts belong to IBPO locals 447 and 447S in the Pittsfield department.
The union locals represent patrol officers and superior officers, respectively.
In addition to the internal affairs probe, Wynn said he requested assistance from the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit of the Berkshire District Attorney's Office to explore possible criminal charges.
In his internal affairs report, dated Sept. 8, Grady stated that he learned Coco had begun a 30-day personal leave from the department on July 3, and that Wynn was notified by the IBPO office on July 14 of money missing from the local union accounts, and that "Officer Coco had not paid the IBPO the national union dues in some time."
Money for the union dues is deducted from police officer paychecks. Grady goes on to state that he was a member of the union's executive board from 2000 through 2007 and was familiar with the union local's operations.
Grady described hearing on July 16 that the national union "hadn't been paid in 8-10 months and is owed approximately $45,000 to $50,000."
The lieutenant said he received a phone call on July 17 from Officer Coco and went on to describe the conversation. Grady said he told Coco he was aware the union president had not paid the national union dues for several months, and at one point, "Officer Coco asked me if I thought he could just pay the money back and keep his job."
On Aug. 5, Grady stated, he was notified that the two locals, IBPO 447 and IBPO 447S, had failed to pay a total of $57,962 in dues owed to the national union. An official whose name was redacted from the report "told me that he had spoken with Officer Coco several times over several months about the national union not receiving the dues check," Grady stated.
"The preliminary analysis [of union accounts] shows that Officer Coco has made an inordinate amount of cash withdrawals and has written an inordinate amount of checks to himself," Grady stated.
He said the analysis showed that from Jan. 1 to June 25 this year, Coco had 67 transactions of cash withdrawals or checks written to Jeffrey Coco, totaling $28,220.
During 2014, Grady stated, the preliminary analysis showed 178 transactions of cash withdrawals or checks to Jeffrey Coco, totaling $53,165; and during 2013, Coco had 171 transactions of cash withdrawals or checks to Jeffrey Coco, totaling $52,313.
Grady also notes that a total of $107,921 was raised through union fund drives from 2011 to 2015, money typically used for student scholarships or union charity donations. While looking into a specific scholarship request made this year, Grady said he learned the student in question "did not receive a Pittsfield Police Union scholarship in 2015, and after reviewing the union's bank records, it does not appear any scholarships were awarded."
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