FBI closes its three-year investigation of moonlighting by city, county police

U.S. prosecutor declined to press charges in office-supply store probe

April 11, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The FBI has officially ended its lengthy look into alleged moonlighting violations by Baltimore and Baltimore County police, officials said yesterday.

The decision ends a three-year investigation into about 40 city and several county police officers who worked as security guards at area office-supply stores.

It also comes after the state's top federal prosecutor, Thomas M. DiBiagio, declined to press charges. And it puts to rest inquiries sought by FBI agents in Baltimore, who disagreed with DiBiagio's decision and asked federal prosecutors in Massachusetts to review part of the investigation in recent months.

The appeal to other federal prosecutors frustrated city and county police, who wrote letters last month to Attorney General John Ashcroft and top FBI officials complaining about the pace of the probe.

Yesterday, union officials applauded the bureau's decision.

"It's about time," said Gary McLhinney, president of the city's police union. "They have wasted enough time and resources on this case already. I'm sure the department will conduct a proper administrative investigation."

City police have indicated that they plan to internally review the case.

FBI agents were investigating whether officers in the Baltimore and Washington areas were paid for work they never did and worked at Staples office-supply stores while on duty. They also were investigating whether a Staples employee took more than $200,000 from the chain and used it to pay officers in cash.

In early September, FBI agents swarmed across the Baltimore area, questioning officers at their offices and homes. In February, police officials disclosed that DiBiagio had declined to bring charges against the officers.

FBI agents in Baltimore then told high-ranking FBI officials in Washington about DiBiagio's decision, said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta, a bureau spokesman. Those FBI officials had "informal" discussions about the case with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, Gulotta said, adding that the bureau had "differences of opinion" with DiBiagio about "where the case should go" but has a good relationship with him.

While Gulotta confirmed that Baltimore agents met with prosecutors in Massachusetts, where Staples has its headquarters, he denied agents shopped the case. He said agents went there only for "operational reasons," which he declined to disclose.

FBI agents will cooperate with police internal affairs investigators, Gulotta said.

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