NEW BRUNSWICK - Five Edison police officers face charges of taking pay for jobs they never showed up to, according to a statement from Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey.
Sgt. Ioannis "John" Mpletsakis, of Edison, 38, Sgt. Brian Rossmeyer, 41, of Bedmisister, and patrolmen Paul Pappas, 43, James Panagoulakos, 32, both of Edison, and Gregory Makras, 33, of Cranford, were each charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct and single counts of third-degree theft by unlawful taking.
Carey said that between November 14, 2016 and May 1, 2018, some Edison police officers were earning pay for extra-duty assignments they were not present for. These extra-duty, or "side jobs," are in addition to the regular hours which a member of the police department is assigned to work for the town, the prosecutor said.
"The officers who volunteer to take these extra assignments have full police responsibilities while on the extra-duty assignments," Carey said. "These assignments include directing traffic for utility companies as well as providing security services for local businesses and residential communities," he said.
The prosecutor said Edison police lack a centralized system of assignment for these extra-duty jobs, but instead have several people within the department who wield wide discretion in selecting officers for the assignments. The payment for these extra-duty jobs can exceed $100,000 in a single year for an officer, and that money is on top of the officer's regular base pay and overtime, Carey said.
"Any police officer who knowingly got paid for an off duty-job they did not do, is guilty of malfeasance. Edison township officials, however, are responsible for allowing a system of fiscal irresponsibility to exist," Carey said.
"The assignment of extra-duty jobs being handled by multiple individuals with very little oversight, paired with an inadequate system of accounting, has directly resulted in nepotism and corruption," he said.
Edison police Chief Thomas Bryan said all five officers have been suspended without pay.
While declining to comment on the details of the case, Bryan said that "once again" Edison police took "appropriate action."
"We identified an internal concern. We alerted the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office about those concerns and detectives from our Professional Standards Bureau worked closely with the county to investigate these matters," Bryan said.
"We continue to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office as this investigation proceeds,” he said.
The chief did not comment on Carey's criticism that the "corruption" was a direct result of the department's failure to oversee the extra-job system.
Mpletsakis, a 16-year veteran of the force, had been fired from the department for running from an off-duty car accident in Edison in 2005. He was naked at the time of the accident. In 2007, a judge ordered that he be reinstated. He was promoted to sergeant last year.
Pappas is a 14-year veteran of the department, Panagoulakos is a four-year member, Makras a seven-year member and Rossmeyer has 11 years with the department.
The investigation is continuing, Carey said, and there maybe more arrests. He urged anybody with information about this case to call call Edison police Capt. Kenneth Schreck at (732) 248-7453, or Detective Nicholas Chiorello of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-5217.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison upon conviction.