"This is not a good day for the state police," said Vt. State Police Col. Tom L'Esperance.
His boss called his actions a betrayal of the badge. And Monday former state trooper Jim Deeghan took responsibility for stealing more than $200,000 from taxpayers over the past six years. "I regret the time spent, man hours spent by the state police in this case, because I know they have more important things they could have been doing," Deeghan told the court.
The 22-year veteran of the force pleaded guilty to two counts of false pretenses and two counts of neglect of duty for a time card scandal. Over the past six years the former sergeant and patrol commander of the Williston barracks added hundreds of overtime hours to his time card -- hours he never worked. To cover the falsified time sheets, he wrote nearly a thousand fake traffic tickets and made up police calls he claimed he responded to.
"I just hope people don't hold the state police responsible for what I did, what I did solely," Deeghan said.
As part of a plea deal, Deeghan will spend two years in prison and perform 500 hours of community service.
"Initially I thought it was going to be one act -- it escalated -- stress, depression set in and it continued to escalate and it eventually became routine for me," Deeghan said.
Prosecutors said most importantly the 49-year-old Colchester resident must repay the money he stole. "I don't think you can find in this court or the state where this amount of money in a criminal preceding is paid back to the taxpayers in six years -- it's unheard of," said Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan.
State law prohibits prosecutors from going after Deeghan's pension. But as part of the plea deal, Deeghan agreed to use his pension to pay the 202-thousand dollars back over the next six years.
Deeghan also agreed to a revised pension based on the salary he really earned -- not the inflated figures. So instead of receiving a pension of $68,000 a year, he will get $44,000.
While Deeghan is serving his two year prison sentence, Vermont's Green and Gold will begin the difficult task of rebuilding the public's trust. "Can we police ourselves? The proof is the in the pudding -- a trooper is off to jail because of the crimes he committed while on duty," Col. L'Esperance said.
The case prompted the Shumlin administration to take a critical look at pension reform. The governor, unions and lawmakers support a bill to seize the retirement benefits of any state employee involved in embezzlement or fraud.
Deeghan will serve his time at a prison out of state where other public safety personnel convicted of crimes have served sentences. The exact location will be determined in another month or two. Until then he will be held in protective housing.
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