Thirteen Prince George’s County, Maryland, police officers and a recently retired officer were indicted Thursday on charges of theft and misconduct in office.
The Prince George’s County Police Department said in a statement Thursday that the officers have been accused of working for a private security company at more than 20 apartment complexes in the county while they were on duty.
They also allegedly “(provided) false information to the apartment complexes to justify the continued hiring of the security company,” the department said.
“Public safety cannot operate without integrity,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “The badge has to mean something.”
The alleged misconduct happened between January 2019 and March 2021, police said, adding that the Internal Affairs Division got an internal complaint about it in February 2021. The officers were suspended in April 2021.
“For officers that step forward, who see wrongdoing or alleged wrongdoing and report it, that right there, is something that we support,” Prince George’s County Chief of Police Malik Aziz said in the statement.
He emphasized the department itself started the investigation, and added, “Whenever we become aware of potential misconduct, we thoroughly investigate and if needed, we deliver the case to the States’ Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges. That’s exactly what happened in this situation.”
The police in the statement listed policy changes they said they made starting July 2021:
- Employees are prohibited from engaging in the business of providing security guards, special police officers, or any other law enforcement-related services to commercial establishments or other individuals within Prince George’s County.
- The department purchased a software program to manage secondary employment jobs. Officers must clock in and out using this program.
- Site inspections are being conducted by the Internal Affairs Division’s Discovery and Compliance Unit.
- When new businesses look for secondary employment, an email announcing the opportunity is sent out to all officers through county email.
- The agency started a randomization process when selecting site coordinators for new jobs to ensure a variety of coordinators, which also limits the number of locations that one officer can coordinate.
“This is a great police department with excellent police officers but today, today, we have some bad apples that need to be held accountable,” said Berry Stanton, deputy chief administrative officer for Prince George’s County.
The indicted officers are:
- Cpl. Nick Agapov;
- Cpl. Jonathan Haskett;
- Cpl. Mathew Obordo;
- Cpl. Matthew Cotillo;
- Cpl. Joshua Hitchens;
- Cpl. Chris Hall;
- Cpl. Michael O’Connell;
- Cpl. Kyle Cook;
- Cpl. Travis Popieilarcheck;
- Cpl. Anthony Brooke;
- Cpl. Brandon Farley;
- POFC Christopher Oliver;
- POFC John McIntosh.
- The retired officer is Cpl. James Lubonski.
According to Braveboy’s office, 13 of the officers are accused of stealing between $1,500 to under $25,000 for working both jobs at once. One officer stands accused of stealing at least $100 to under $1,500.
Braveboy said that, if convicted, the officers could face up to five years in prison for the felony theft charges.
Prince George’s County police said they were discovered as the agency’s internal affairs division looked into their employer, former police lieutenant Edward Scott Finn, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion earlier this year.
“This is truly a disheartening day for the men and women who represent the very best of the Prince George’s County Police Department,” Aziz said. “ … If the allegations are proven true during the judicial process, their actions not only tarnish the badge we all wear proudly, but also erode the community’s trust.”
Angelo Consoli, the president of the police union, said in a statement Friday they would review the indictments “to garner a full picture of what is being alleged,” but also called the prosecution “politically motivated.”.
In response, Braveboy on Friday reiterated in a statement that the department’s own internal affairs division began the investigation. “Once a case has been presented to my office, it is our obligation and commitment to public safety and pursuing justice to present the information to the grand jury,” Braveboy said. “That is not politics. It is the law.”