Officer falsified Iraq duty, police say

Patrolman told superiors he had been called up for duty

Trial is scheduled for next month

He is accused of collecting money from force for 2 months

In Anne Arundel

October 20, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

A veteran Anne Arundel County police officer is scheduled to go on trial next month, charged with theft after being accused of collecting a paycheck from the department for two months after he falsely told his commanders he had been called up for military duty in Iraq.

Officer Andrew Barnett, 51, an eight-year veteran who worked as a patrolman in the western district, is scheduled to be tried Nov. 18, the department announced yesterday.

"It's extremely disappointing when any of our officers are involved in criminal activity, especially at a time when the country is involved in a war on terror," said Lt. Edward Bergin, who is leading the department's investigation.

When "someone takes advantage of this, they take advantage of the department and the citizens of the county. It makes it even more egregious," Bergin said.

Laura Robinson, one of Barnett's lawyers, said yesterday that her client "vehemently denies" the allegations against him and that he is looking forward to his day in court. She would not discuss Barnett's military record and declined further comment about the case.

According to court documents, Barnett was charged with committing a theft scheme in August. The charge follows what Bergin said was an internal investigation into the case. Barnett has been suspended without pay from the department since February.

In December, Barnett told his supervisors that he needed time off because the Army had called him to duty overseas, Bergin said. He was granted the time - a period of months - but he had not been deployed, said Bergin. He said he is not sure what Barnett, a Hanover resident, was doing or where he was during the weeks he was supposedly deployed overseas.

Additionally, Bergin would not say exactly how much money is alleged to have been illegally collected by Barnett during that period, but he estimated the amount to be in the thousands of dollars. The department provides some compensation to those called to military duty, but Bergin declined to say whether employees are paid a full salary while serving.

County officials contacted yesterday would not comment.

According to Bergin, Barnett's alleged scheme was revealed during a check of his personnel file, which showed that he had not submitted the paperwork required for a leave of military service.

Any additional disciplinary actions against him are pending the outcome of the criminal trial, he said.

Bergin said this is the first case of its kind that the Arundel police force has seen.

"It's unconscionable. We enforce the law, we should not be breaking the law," he said.

Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman, said she was unable to say immediately whether Barnett has ever been called to active duty with the Maryland National Guard or the reserves.

Sun staff writer Molly Knight contributed to this article.

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