'Stealing' overtime was common for years in Mass. State Police, retired trooper testifies

William Robertson, left, and Daniel Griffin leave U.S. District Court in Worcester on Tuesday.
William Robertson, left, and Daniel Griffin leave U.S. District Court in Worcester on Tuesday.

WORCESTER — “Stealing” by not working full overtime shifts was commonplace in the Massachusetts State Police dating to the 1980s, a retired trooper testified under an immunity agreement Tuesday in federal court.

The testimony – first given in 2020 to a grand jury – was affirmed, after some equivocation, Tuesday by former Trooper John Jakobowski.

“Yes,” Jakobowski – testifying to avoid the same kinds of charges two superiors are facing – replied when a prosecutor asked him whether he told grand jurors the practice was commonplace in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond.

Jakobowski, now a substitute teacher in Norfolk, testified for hours Tuesday in the trial of Lt. Daniel J. Griffin and Sgt. William R. Robertson, commanders of a traffic control unit prosecutors say committed theft by habitually double dipping or leaving early on federally funded overtime shifts.

In opening statements Tuesday morning, lawyers for Griffin and Robertson told jurors in Worcester’s U.S. District Court that their clients were simply following precedent that happened for years.

The lawyers told jurors the officers did not believe what they were doing was wrong – something they and prosecutors questioned Jakobowski about several times.

Jakobowski, under cross-examination, testified he believed he was a good police officer, and did not leave the force believing he’d committed crimes.

Initially asked by defense lawyer Thomas M. Hoopes whether he recalled the 2020 grand jury testimony, he indicated he did not.

Shown the testimony, Jakobowski – who, Hoopes noted, had a lot to lose were he not to cooperate, including, potentially, his freedom and pension – affirmed its accuracy.

Jakobowski went on to testify that, dating to the 1980s, troopers who were “able to get (their) objectives done” in overtime shifts weren’t required to put in the full time.

Jakobowski agreed with Hoopes that he saw this happen “time and time again,” and agreed with Hoopes that supervisors and captains knew about it, but didn’t stop it.

“Some of those captains went on to be majors?” Hoopes asked.

“Yes,” Jakobowski replied.

“And maybe some of them even got higher in the state police, correct?” Hoopes continued.

“Correct,” Jakobowski replied.

Hoopes spoke at length to Jakobowski, a married 64-year-old father of three, about his motives for cooperating with the government. He noted the trooper spoke to the government at least five times, and suggested prosecutors required him to tell the truth as the government saw it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Chao, after Hoopes’s questioning, asked Jakobowski whether he thought it was wrong for there to be a “common practice of stealing” in state police overtime.

“That’s wrong,” Jakobowski replied, adding, when asked, that he also thought it was bad for police officers to lie to make it seem they worked hours they did not work.

Prosecutors allege Jakobowski and several other officers, at the direction of Griffin and Robertson, conspired to fill out false timesheets to make it look like they worked all the overtime traffic details they performed.

In reality, they said, the troopers started the shifts on their regular work time and ended the shifts hours before they were scheduled to end.

Prosecutors Tuesday, through testimony from Jakobowski, presented evidence that members of the traffic unit took steps to conceal their actions.

Jakobowski testified that Griffin used “code words” on the police radio when directing subordinates to leave shifts early.

Griffin, he said, would tell the handful of troopers under his control to move to another location – but that’s not what he meant.

“We would stop writing tickets and pack it up. We were going home,” testified Jakoboswki, who said everyone in the group knew what the code word meant.

Asked why Griffin wouldn’t just tell the men to leave, Jakobowski replied it was because “other officers from the troop could have been on the same (radio) channel.”

Jakobowski admitted to Chao that while he wrote on documentation that he had issued tickets throughout the duration of his four-hour shift, in reality all the tickets were written in the first couple hours.

“I was told to make it look like we worked the entire four-hour overtime period,” Jakobowski said, adding that it was Griffin who directed him to do so.

Chao also showed Jakobowski timesheets that the 34-year-trooper, who retired in 2017, admitted to falsifying. They were approved by Griffin, he said.

After showing jurors the fake times Jakobowski listed on his paperwork for issuing tickets for one of his shifts, Chao showed them actual paper copies of the tickets that showed they were all issued in the first couple hours.

Jakobowski said he would generally write eight or nine tickets before Griffin would give the code word to pack up and leave.

“I guess you could call it a quota, sure,” Jakobowski said, when Chao asked whether the practice amounted to such.

The trial is set to resume Wednesday.

Both Griffin and Robertson are charged with one count of conspiracy to steal federal funds, one count of aiding and abetting theft of federal funds and three counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Testimony: Mass. State Police overtime theft was common for years