Friday, September 11, 2020

Bridgeport Police Chief And Personnel Director Charged With Fraud, False Statements In Connection With City’s Hiring Of The Police Chief

 

Defendants Alleged to Have Rigged Police Chief Exam, Misappropriated City’s Confidential Information

  Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Acting Under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, and David Sundberg, Special Agent-in-Charge, New Haven Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the arrest of ARMANDO J. PEREZ, the Chief of Police of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut (the “City”), and DAVID DUNN, the City’s acting personnel director, for defrauding the City by rigging the 2018 police chief examination, mandated by the City’s Charter, to ensure PEREZ would be selected for the position.  PEREZ and DUNN were also charged with making false statements to federal agents in the course of the investigation.  Both defendants are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport federal court this afternoon.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Chief Perez and Personnel Director Dunn schemed to rig the purportedly impartial and objective search for a permanent police chief to ensure the position was awarded to Perez, and then repeatedly lied to federal agents in order to conceal their conduct.  Bridgeport’s citizens and police officers deserve leaders with integrity who are committed to enforcing, not breaking, the law, and we thank the FBI for their partnership in investigating and uncovering the scheme alleged.”   

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge David Sundberg said:  “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the members of the United States Attorney’s Offices in both the Southern District of New York as well as Connecticut for their professionalism and invaluable assistance in this case. Today’s arrest of city officials including a high ranking, long-time law enforcement officer is a stark reminder that the betrayal of public trust and community members by a public servant is not only unethical but often illegal. We recognize these arrests are not a reflection on the Bridgeport Police Department as a whole, but it is our responsibility to root out injustice and corruption by any and all elected and appointed officials entrusted to protect and serve with honor. We at the FBI will continue to aggressively pursue all those engaged in matters of public corruption throughout Connecticut.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint unsealed upon the defendants’ arrest, and publicly available information:[1]

The Scheme to Rig the City of Bridgeport’s Police Chief Exam

The charges alleged in the Complaint arise from a criminal scheme to rig the City’s search for a new Bridgeport Police Department (“BPD”) chief in 2018.  During the course of this scheme, PEREZ – who was serving as the acting BPD chief at the time – conspired with DUNN, who is and was at that time the City’s acting personnel director, to deceive the City by secretly rigging the supposedly independent search process for a new BPD chief to ensure that PEREZ was ranked as one of the top three candidates and could therefore be awarded a five-year contract to serve as the BPD chief.

More specifically, in or about February 2018, the City commenced a search to fill the position of permanent Chief of Police.  Under the City’s Charter, the City was required to conduct an “open and competitive examination” to determine the top three scoring candidates for the position, from which the mayor could then choose.  DUNN, in his role as the personnel director, oversaw the police chief examination process, and retained an outside consultant (“Consultant-1”) to assist with developing and carrying out the exam.  DUNN and PEREZ then manipulated that examination process in multiple ways:  DUNN stole confidential examination questions and related information developed by Consultant-1, and provided those materials to PEREZ, including by email; DUNN had Consultant-1 tailor the examination scoring criteria to favor PEREZ; PEREZ enlisted two BPD officers to secretly draft and write PEREZ’s written exam; and DUNN attempted to influence a panelist, tasked with ranking the candidates in the last stage of the exam, to ensure that PEREZ was scored as one of the top three candidates. 

As a result of the scheme, the City was deceived into ranking PEREZ among the top three candidates, which rendered him eligible for the permanent police chief position.  The mayor ultimately offered the position to PEREZ, and the City, under the assurance that PEREZ had been appointed in accordance with the City Charter, entered into a five-year contract with PEREZ, the terms of which included a payout of more than $300,000 to PEREZ for accrued leave.

False Statements by PEREZ and DUNN

PEREZ and DUNN were each voluntarily interviewed in connection with the FBI’s investigation.  In an attempt to conceal their conduct, during those interviews they both lied to FBI agents about facts material to the criminal investigation.  PEREZ provided false and misleading information about the assistance DUNN and others had provided him in connection with the examination process, including his requests to a BPD officer to sneak into headquarters to retrieve stolen confidential information provided by DUNN.  DUNN falsely denied requesting an exam panelist ensure that PEREZ was scored as one of the top three candidates.

PEREZ, 64, of Trumbull, Connecticut, and DUNN, 72, of Stratford, Connecticut, are each charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. PEREZ is also charged with two counts of false statements to federal investigators, and DUNN is charged with one count of false statements to federal investigators, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of the FBI and the Special Agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 [1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitutes only allegations, and every fact described therein should be treated as an allegation.

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