FBI Investigating New Bedford Police Union Finances

NEW BEDFORD — The FBI is investigating the finances of the New Bedford police union, The Standard-Times has learned.

The federal agency contacted the union seeking financial records going back several years, according to union president Hank Turgeon.

Although he would not discuss the specifics of the investigation, he said a private accounting firm is already conducting a forensic audit of union finances, at the executive board’s request.

Before the FBI got involved, the union’s board commissioned the audit, which covers 2011 to the present, Turgeon said in an interview Friday.

According to the union head, former police sergeant Joshua Fernandes served as treasurer from 2011 or earlier until July 2019. He declined to talk about Fernandes’ performance as treasurer.

Fernandes, who was awarded the state’s highest police medal for his response to a 2006 shooting rampage at a New Bedford strip club — where he was shot in the face — later had his own run-in with the law. He was fired from the police department in October.

Authorities had arrested Fernandes in May on charges that he tracked his ex-wife with a GPS, took her minivan and smashed the windows. The prosecutor said Fernandes stole his ex-wife’s cellphone to isolate her and ran the license plates of acquaintances. The charges are pending.

Fernandes did not return calls Friday seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the Boston office of the FBI said Department of Justice policy prevents her from confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.

Union members received notice of the FBI investigation in a Dec. 20 email from Turgeon, the same day the union president met with the mayor and demanded police Chief Joseph Cordeiro’s resignation. The union has alleged mismanagement of the department by Cordeiro.

“We will be providing copies of all of our financial records that are at Manzi & Associates, the auditing firm conducting our forensic audit, to the FBI,” Turgeon wrote. “They will then be conducting a criminal investigation into our past finances.”

News of the investigation comes a day after The Standard-Times reported that Turgeon had issued a scathing criticism of Cordeiro and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. In statement posted online, he called the chief incompetent and said the mayor had “brushed aside” the union’s concerns.

The union has demanded in writing that Cordeiro resign, and that if he refuses, the mayor remove him.

City police have been working without a contract since July 2018.

Asked earlier this week to comment on the union’s criticism, Jonathan Carvalho, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, cited statements Mitchell and Cordeiro made in September when news of the union’s dissatisfaction with Cordeiro first broke. At the time, the mayor expressed his “full confidence” in the chief, and Cordeiro said he is “one hundred percent committed to the City of New Bedford.”

Carvalho said Friday that Mitchell had no comment on the investigation of the union’s finances. Police spokeswoman Melissa Batchilder said the same for Cordeiro.

From www.providencejournal.com

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