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2 cops charged with helping US Army members steal $100,000 for bogus funeral duties

New Orleans Police Department (New Orleans CBD/Wikicommons)

Two New Orleans police officers were indicted Friday on charges of helping five other Army reservists steal more than $100,000 by charging the military for working as honor guards at funerals that never took place.

At the request of their families, active duty soldiers, retirees and other military veterans may receive military funeral honors through the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act. Among the duties are folding and presenting a United States flag to survivors and playing taps.

Prosecutors said detective Chantelle Davis and officer Lynea Sanders were among seven Army reservists benefitting from the scam. They said former Army pay technician Christopher O’Connor submitted reimbursement requests for various military funeral honors between 2013 and 2016 in his own name and for Davis, Sanders, Leroy Daniels Jr., Derrick Branch, Cody Francis and Terrance Howard.

But the ceremonies never happened, prosecutors alleged. They say the defendants received these payments for work not performed:

— Sanders, 41 — $22,505

— O’Connor, 40 — $18,825

— Branch, 36 — $15,469

— Howard, 54 — $13,586

— Daniels, 45 — $11,694

— Francis, 31 — $11,378

— Davis, 35 — $8,399

The defendants formed part of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command in New Orleans. All live in New Orleans except Daniels, a Westwego resident, prosecutors said.

Any of the defendants convicted of stealing government money and conspiring to do so could be sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000. Maximum penalties in federal court, however, are rare for first offenders. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it also will seek restitution.

Davis joined the Police Department in 2009, Sanders in 2013. A Police Department spokesperson said the agency had placed both on desk duty in September after being made aware of the federal investigation that resulted in Friday’s indictment. They will remain on desk duty with the federal case pending and while an internal NOPD investigation into the officers’ alleged actions continues unfolding, the spokesperson said.

“We take allegations of this nature very seriously,” NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said in a statement late Friday. “We cannot allow the dishonest actions these officer are accused of to jeopardize the trust our citizens have in this department.”

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