SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A now-retired Springfield police officer who allegedly stole nearly $400,000 in cash from the department’s evidence room was arraigned in superior court on theft charges Monday.
Former Officer Kevin M. Burnham, who retired in the summer of 2014, turned himself in earlier in the day. He is being charged with six counts of larceny over $250 and one count of larceny under $250. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office says the stolen money came from some 170 different drug cases, and was allegedly being taken by Burnham between December 2009 and July 2014.
Burnham, a 43 year veteran officer who was the longest-serving member of the department at the time of his retirement, had been the department’s narcotics evidence officer since 1984. In that position, he was in charge of storage and safekeeping of money and drug evidence.
During a news conference at police headquarters Monday morning, Police Commissioner John Barbieri said that he was shocked by the theft, which had led to the return of funds to alleged drug dealers, and even the dismissal of some cases.
“I’ve been a police officer in Springfield for 28 years. I cannot remember anything happening of this magnitude in this department,” Barbieri said.
Burnham pleaded not guilty during his arraignment at Hampden Superior Court Monday, and was released on personal recognizance provided he agreed to turn over his passport. He also must turn over his guns, and notify his probation officer if he travels out of state. He will also be examined by a court clinician.
Burnham is due back in court on Tuesday, January 19.
Burnham’s attorney at this time is Charles Dolan. 22News spoke with Dolan outside the courtroom.
(“Your client pleaded not guilty today (Monday), is he saying he’s not responsible?)
“He pleaded not guilty, at this particular point in time we have no information from the government as to the nature and details of the charges or allegations.”
Barbieri said that upon taking office as the city’s police commissioner, he requested an audit of all cash and evidence. He said that last February, it was discovered that about $385,000 in cash was missing. He had his officers investigate further, to determine whether the cash was misplaced or improperly stored, but it was determined that was not the case. He then turned the matter over to the state police and the attorney general’s office, which ultimately brought the charges against Burnham.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said that he was “greatly saddened, and angered, and shocked” by what allegedly took place. He and Barbieri both said that they have taken measures to ensure something like this does not happen again. Measures being taken include a change in the command structure and the purchase of new equipment to better track their cash.