Former narcotics unit sergeant faces charges in Detroit police overtime probe
Detroit — The fallout from a sweeping investigation into overtime fraud in the Detroit Police Department continued this week with criminal charges filed against a sergeant who allegedly falsified court documents.
The overtime investigation tangentially involves another ongoing probe into corruption in the police department’s former Narcotics Section.
Sgt. Myron Weathers, a 20-year police veteran who worked in the drug unit before being transferred to the 9th Precinct, was arraigned Tuesday on charges of False Pretenses, $1,000 or more but less than $20,000. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
“It’s alleged that between January 27, 2014, through June 30, 2014, he submitted 29 fraudulent court appearance notices,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller said Friday. “The allegation is that he falsely claimed he was to appear in federal court, and received payment for it, even though he didn’t appear.”
Detroit police began investigating allegations of widespread overtime abuse in November, after a supervisor in the department’s Homicide Section, Lt. Joseph Tiseo, reported officers were illegally charging the city for time they hadn’t worked. The probe later widened to include several other units, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.
The charges included officers allegedly writing false subpoenas to appear in court so they could collect overtime. Last month, allegations surfaced that Homicide Section officers falsely claimed they had to appear at the lengthy murder trial of Grosse Pointe Park businessman Robert Bashara, who was convicted last year for the murder of his wife, Jane.
Detroit Police Capt. Eric Decker, commanding officer of the Homicide Section, said last month that court time for homicide investigators has dropped 52 percent since the investigation began. Total overtime in the unit is down 14.5 percent this year, he said.
The police department is budgeted for $19.6 million in overtime this year.
“While these are allegations, and due process is afforded, these are the types of allegations that tarnish the badge,” Craig said. “We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
Weathers’ attorney Todd Perkins said the timing of the charges was “interesting.”
“We’ve been involved in a lawsuit, and then he’s charged in this criminal proceeding,” Perkins said. “The natural tendency is to believe there’s something conspicuous about the manner and the timing in which he gets charged, given the civil case. It’s just interesting.”
Weathers in October 2014 filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department, Craig, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt and Lt. Charles Flanagan in Wayne Circuit Court, claiming racism and harassment by white superior officers when he worked in the Narcotics Section, which has since been disbanded.
In the suit, Weathers alleges that Flanagan, the former head of the narcotics unit, appointed to a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force an “unqualified white female officer” who was “rumored to be having an inappropriate relationship” with Flanagan, who is white.
Weathers said in his lawsuit that in February, he filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission “claiming that he was retaliated against by his Caucasian superior for questioning the assignment of an unqualified white, female officer to (Flanagan’s) crew,” according to the 32-page lawsuit, which is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Flanagan, who is now commander of the Organized Crime/Support Section, filed his own EEOC complaint in May, claiming he was the victim of racial discrimination by black superior officers, and that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because he blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing in the narcotics unit that he said happened before he took over the squad.
Flanagan told police officials that Weathers took for his personal use big-screen televisions, a tablet and an Xbox video game system that had been confiscated from drug dealers; and that rocks of crack cocaine that hadn’t been logged as evidence were found inside officers’ desks. Flanagan’s report in May launched an internal investigation.
Weathers insisted in his suit that he hadn’t improperly used the confiscated equipment, and said he “repurposed“ the televisions “for training purposes.”
Weathers went on to allege in his suit that drugs and other evidence found by members of Flanagan’s crew had been mishandled.
Craig disbanded the Narcotics Section last year after the allegations of wrongdoing surfaced. Since then, two former drug officers, Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Officer Bryan “Bullet” Watson, have been charged in federal court with stealing drugs, while Detective James Napier, who was being investigated for alleged wrongdoing in the drug unit, committed suicide in January.
Last month, Officer Arthur Leavells, who helped federal agents secretly record conversations with corrupt police and dope dealers via a wiretap, according to court records and two sources familiar with the investigation, was also charged in federal court.
The internal Detroit police investigations of both the drug unit and overtime abuse are ongoing, while federal officials continue to probe wrongdoing in the narcotics unit.
Sgt. Joseph Abdella, a former homicide investigator, filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in November, claiming he was transferred out of the unit to the Mounted Section because he reported overtime fraud. But Craig said he was moved because he allegedly called a female subordinate a “black (expletive)” during an argument.
Abdella supervised a joint task force of investigators responsible for cases involving multiple deaths, police-involved shootings and narcotics-related killings. The unit consisted of six Detroit police officers and 10 Michigan State Police troopers, according to the lawsuit filed in Wayne Circuit Court, which seeks more than $25,000 in damages.
Last month, Sgt. Erik Eide, commanding officer of the Mounted Section, was removed from his post and suspended without pay after being accused of overtime fraud. He remains suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Weathers, released on personal bond after his arraignment, has a probable cause hearing scheduled for Tuesday. A preliminary examination is scheduled for May 19.