PITTSFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Pittsfield police officer is out of a job, for allegedly stealing more than $150,000 from the officers’ union, of which he had been serving as president. Officer Jeffrey Coco was fired last week following a civil service hearing, and an investigation by the department.
Pittsfield police sent 22News the official report to Chief Michael Wynn, which was filed by Lieutenant Michael Grady. In it, Grady concluded that Coco made numerous cash withdrawals from IBPO Local 447’s bank account, and wrote out checks from the union account to himself, as well as his wife. Grady says that Coco essentially admitted the theft to him during a telephone conversation, in which Coco allegedly asked whether he could keep his job if he paid the money back.
According to Grady, the scheme was discovered in July, when it was found that the union’s bank account was in the negative. It was also later revealed that the national police union had not been paid in the previous eight to 10 months, and was owed between $45,000 and $50,000. Coco also allegedly started a $15,000 scholarship fundraising campaign with a private fundraising firm, and then terminated the campaign the following month, saying that he needed to go on personal leave- the fundraising firm was still owed money.
Grady’s report concludes that Grady committed the crime of larceny over $250 by a single scheme.
Changes have been made as a result of the incidents. Lt. Grady, who was himself a former union president and treasurer, says that once union dues had been collected through employees’ paychecks, the union had assigned a designee to receive a check from the city treasurer’s office. That designee would then write out two separate checks- one for the national union, and one for local use. Since the revelation of the theft, the union has changed its practice- with the city treasurer now writing a check directly to the national union.
In a statement sent to 22News, Chief Wynn said the department must act when the public trust is violated.
“Such acts reflect not only on the involved individual, but also on the office and reputation of the vast majority of police officers here in Pittsfield and across the nation, who perform their duties every day honestly and with extreme dedication. Service as a police officer requires a high degree of public trust. On those rare occasions, as is the case here, that trust is violated, severe sanctions must be imposed,” Wynn said.
This is not the first time Coco had been suspected of taking union money. Grady’s report states that back in 2012, Coco had withdrawn about $5,000 from a union account. A former union board member confronted him about it, and Coco told him that he was getting married, and had been having trouble paying the bills. The board member ordered Coco to pay the money back, but Grady says there is no evidence the funds were ever returned.
No criminal charges have been filed against Coco at this time, but Pittsfield Police Capt. John Mullin told 22News that they are still conducting an investigation into possible charges.