[cifnmedia] Clerk resigns in firefighter fraud case

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 05:01:59 -0800 (PST)

Clerk resigns in firefighter fraud case 
 
 March 24, 2004 Wednesday  
 
An Albuquerque Fire Department payroll clerk has resigned, a move officials 
hope brings closure to a department embarrassed by a case of time card fraud.

The employee resigned Tuesday before a hearing to determine her fate with the 
Fire Department. Four firefighters were fired Monday, accused of padding time 
sheets to the tune of $13,000.

"We really want to move on and focus on serving the public," Fire Chief Robert 
Ortega said. "Our department is more like a family than anything else, and I 
can't believe something like this happened within our ranks.

"As far as I know, it's never happened before, and we are working to make sure 
it never happens again."

Department officials said they began investigating the five employees in late 
February when supervisors started noticing discrepancies in time off taken by 
the four firefighters.

Ortega declined to identify the five former employees, whose actions are being 
investigated by Albuquerque Police Department white-collar-crime detectives. 
The group could face criminal charges such as fraud, conspiracy and receiving 
public money for services not rendered.

During the internal Fire Department investigation, officials compared the 
payroll slips with an automated system that tracks which firefighters are on 
duty. When the automated systems logged the firefighters on vacation, the 
payroll slips counted them as though they were on duty, the fire chief said.

The firefighters are accused of falsifying time sheets with the help of the 
payroll clerk in a plan dating to March 2003. The clerk did not modify her time 
cards to collect extra pay, but she helped the firefighters claim an additional 
627 hours they never worked, authorities said. One of the firefighters, who 
apparently once dated the payroll clerk, collected about $8,000 in extra pay.

The group walked away with $13,000 in city money, which still has not been 
repaid, Ortega said.

"We don't know why they did it, and three of the firefighters even told us they 
didn't know it was happening," Ortega said. "I'm not sure we'll ever understand 
why they did it."

City auditors are reviewing the Fire Department's payroll records.

"I think it's really important to bring someone in from the outside to look at 
everything in our Payroll Department so that we can put this behind us," Ortega 
said.

  



Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network
cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
www.geocities.com/central_illinois_firenet


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