AF area police officers indicted for alleged off-duty fraud - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

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AF area police officers indicted for alleged off-duty fraud

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Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 11:00 am

Three active and one former Phoenix police officers from the South Mountain Precinct have been indicted on felony charges for allegedly billing Phoenix businesses for off-duty security work they did not perform, according to the Attorney General's Office.

The South Mountain precinct, northwest of Seventh and Southern avenues in Phoenix, provides police service to Ahwatukee Foothills.

Former Officer George Emil Contreras, 45, was indicted on four felony counts, including fraud, illegal control of an enterprise, and theft for actions he took during his employment with the department performing off-duty security services for multiple clients, according to a statement Thursday from Attorney General's Office spokesman Steve Wilson. Contreras was a Phoenix police officer for 18 years before he resigned in 2008.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Benjamin Hugh Sywarungsymun, 35, Officer Steven Paul Peck, 40, and Officer Aaron J. Lentz, 30, also were indicted on theft charges related to off-duty work, according to Wilson.

The indictment alleges that from December 2005 through 2007, Contreras committed fraud and theft against the Cotton Center Townhomes at 48th Street and Broadway, Laron Incorporated, Arizona Materials, and Eisenberg Properties by submitting false invoices and billing them for more off-duty hours doing security work than he actually performed. Sywarungsymun, Peck and Lentz also are alleged to have committed theft by accepting pay for hours they did not work.

Contreras, as the department's off-duty assignments coordinator, assigned a large majority of shifts to himself, as well as the other officers listed in the indictment, according to the Attorney General's Office. He is accused of committing thefts in excess of $9,000, while Lentz is accused of inappropriately billing $2,000, Sywarungsymun $1,800, and Peck $1,700 - all potentially felony level thefts, according to Wilson. Total losses alleged in the indictment are in excess of $16,000.

The alleged victim that suffered the largest loss was the Cotton Center Townhomes, which involved a security job contracted with the Phoenix Police Department by three homeowners associations to help reduce crime in an area with a high volume of calls for police service, requiring two officers and a marked patrol car, according to Wilson.

The investigation had been ongoing since 2007.

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