Officer accused of falsifying deployment

Investigator says suspect lied to Arundel police about being sent to Iraq

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 falsely telling 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 carrying out a theft scheme in August. The charge followed what Bergin said was an internal investigation into the case.

Barnett has been suspended without pay from the department since February.

In December last year, 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.

Bergin did not say precisely 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 compensation to those called to military duty. 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.

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

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

Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman, said she was unable to say 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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