It’s hard to commit just one crime. Voluminous indictments are routine in the federal system. A single act can be many crimes and a continuing crime can be divided into discrete events.
So Judge Mark Wolf was skeptical when corrupt police officers were allowed to plead guilty to just one minor crime.
The Massachusetts State Police officers who lied about making quota are unfortunate to have had their cases assigned to a judge who is especially troubled by government misconduct. I’m not accusing the other judges in the District of Massachusetts of being soft on crime, but Judge Wolf really stands out. Corruption is a special interest of his.
In the 1990s Judge Wolf helped expose how the FBI conspired with Whitey Bulger. While most of the FBI agents involved escaped prison, they did not escape public shaming.
Let’s imagine you stayed home instead of working a speed trap and falsified the dates on some tickets to make it look like you were busy. How many federal crimes is that?
The prosecutor says less than one: all the offenses during the year 2016 combined into a single count of embezzling from an agency that receives federal funds.
That much, one count of theft instead of many, we can blame on federal sentencing guidelines. Stealing $1,000 fifteen times (without aggravating factors) is treated similarly to stealing $15,000 once.
But there are other crimes that could have been charged. If you embezzle over $10,000, as trooper DeJong did, any financial transaction involving that money is a separate crime: money laundering.
Causing false tickets to be mailed to the RMV is mail fraud. Calling HQ and falsely claiming to be working is wire fraud.
Much of the troop was in on the action, so there’s criminal conspiracy. A conspiracy to embezzle can be charged as racketeering. The Massachusetts State Police is a criminal organization under federal law.
And why was trooper DeJong only charged with one year’s worth of crimes when the conspiracy lasted longer?
The judge thinks the sentence should be measured in years in prison, not months of house arrest. He wants the prosecutor to explain why a lenient sentence is justified.
Should we throw the book at them? I am torn on this issue. Officers in Troop E blew off speed trap duty and lied about making quota. They were stealing from taxpayers while doing drivers a favor. But drivers and taxpayers are the same group, almost everybody. We might be better off paying state troopers to stay at home. But we’d certainly be better off not paying them at all.
If this scandal convinces policy makers that revenue enforcement breeds corruption, it’s for the good.
I don’t think policy makers are that smart.
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