DOC Employee Indicted for Allegedly Using State Funds for Personal Purchases
A Plymouth County Grand Jury returned indictments against Gary Mendes, age 50, of Berkley, on charges of Conflict of Interest-Financial Interest, Conflict of Interest-Gratuities, Procurement Fraud (2 counts), and Larceny Over $250 (3 counts).
"We allege that Mr. Mendes abused his position of trust within the Department of Correction to use state funds for his own personal purchases," Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
In 2007, the DOC Internal Affairs Division started investigating allegations that a member of their Special Operations Division had been improperly acquiring personal items that were purchased with state funding or credits from state returns, and that members of the Special Operations Division had gone on a trip to Florida that was paid for by a state approved vendor of law enforcement supplies located in Western Massachusetts. After conducting their investigation, the DOC referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office in March 2008.
Investigators discovered that starting in 2004 Mendes developed a personal financial relationship with a vendor in the months before it began to bid on (and won) the multi-million dollar statewide contract for firearms, ammunition, and related accessories. Mendes was a member of the five-person Public Safety Procurement Management Team (PMT) that solicited, reviewed, and awarded the contract. Mendes was also the DOC purchasing agent who used the statewide contract to order approximately $250,000 per year in supplies from the vendor.
While working for the DOC and serving on the PMT, Mendes began to accrue both a "personal credit" and a "DOC credit" with the vendor. Mendes obtained personal credit purportedly by selling ammunition left over from military training programs conducted at the DOC's Bridgewater facility. In exchange, the vendor would write checks to or for Mendes's benefit, including checks payable to Mendes, his bank, and various personal credit cards, including Home Depot, Lowe's, Staples, and Sears. Over time, the dollar value of the checks out-paced the dollar value of the military ammunition, and Mendes was bringing in ammunition and other items to "pay down" what he owed. In all, between June 2004 and September 2008, Mendes's ammunition sales and running line of credit resulted in the vendor issuing over 70 checks totaling over $80,000 that were either to or for Mendes's benefit.
The vendor also kept track of a separate DOC credit that Mendes funded by returning DOC purchased merchandise, or by asking the vendor not to ship all of the items on a particular DOC purchase order, or by finding a lower price for items than the price on the purchase order and applying the difference to the credit. The DOC credit (like the personal credit) was kept informally as a running handwritten tally on a succession of manila folders maintained by the vendor.
Mendes used the store credit to purchase items without a DOC purchase order. He would purchase items from the vendor's store, other stores, and on the Internet. When purchasing from other stores, Mendes would frequently place the orders and pay for the items using the vendor's business credit cards. The value of these credit card purchases would be deducted from the accrued DOC credit. Mendes used the DOC credit to buy equipment and supplies for both DOC business and for his own personal uses and needs including: a pitching machine, baseballs, and other baseball equipment, paintball guns and accessories, a bow and two bow cases, a gift for his wife, and various supplies and equipment that he sold to colleagues. Mendes was the person who could get anybody anything they needed.
In addition to using DOC credit to cover in-store personal purchases, and personal purchases from other stores and the internet using the vendor's business credit cards, Mendes enjoyed additional personal financial benefits. Each holiday season in 2004, 2005 and 2006 he received over $200 in Omaha Steaks from the vendor. In 2007, the vendor paid for all or some portion of a trip to Orlando, Florida that Mendes and other members of the Special Operations Division took with the vendor.
In the summer of 2008, it is alleged Mendes pocketed cash derived from selling DOC brass shell casings, "shorting" one DOC ammunition order to pay for the personal purchase of five brand new Smith & Wesson firearms sold for $2,500, and inflating another DOC ammunition order by $9,000 to cover both DOC and personal purchases and have enough left over for Mendes to pocket several thousand dollars more.
On November 19, 2008, Mendes was arrested at his residence without incident by the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office. Mendes was arraigned that same afternoon in Greenfield District Court where he entered a plea of not guilty. Mendes was released on personal recognizance on the condition that he stay away from the law enforcement supplies distributor to whom he had close ties. The Commonwealth had requested that Mendes be held on $25,000 bail.
A Plymouth County Grand Jury returned indictments against Mendes on June 25, 2010. He is scheduled to be arraigned on July 28, 2010, in Brockton Superior Court.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jim O'Brien, Chief of AG Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division, and Assistant Attorney General Jessica Massey, of Attorney General Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division. The case was investigated by financial investigator Jessie Dean, and members of the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and the Commissioner's Office of the Department of Correction.