12/28/07 Policeman Details 'Double-Dipping' Scheme

By Peter Eichenbaum, Herald & News

Before pleading guilty this week to a misconduct charge, police Officer Robert Longo claimed that two other officers were responsible for orchestrating a "double-dipping" scheme.

Longo seemed to implicate Officers James Pangaro and Eriberto Carrero, and tried to exonerate Officer Jose Rivera and Detective Odalys Alvarez, according to a statement he gave to prosecutors on March 3.

All of the officers were indicted last October on charges of taking money for off-duty security jobs they allegedly never worked.

In his statement, which was obtained Friday by the Herald & News, Long accused Pangaro of falsifying the sign-in sheets.

"I actually saw Jimmy Pangaro marking the attendance sheet for people I knew who actually were not presently working at that time," Longo said in the statement.

The police officers had been hired to provide security at School 4 on Lafayette Avenue. But they allegedly worked other side jobs or patrolled the city at times when they should have been monitoring the school.

Longo also told prosecutors that he and Pangaro, his on-duty police partner, often strayed from their patrol sector without permission.

"I didn't think there was a problem because the supervisor never complained about it," Longo said.

Longo also indicated that Pangaro and Carrero benefited most from the scheme.

He was asked: "Who were the people Pangaro would mark in as 'present' when they were not actually working the School 4 detail?"

"Eddie Carrero and himself, " Longo replied.

Longo was also asked why he failed to report what was happening.

"I never really gave it any thought," he replied. "I was just concerned with my hours and getting my paycheck."

Longo portrayed himself, Alvarez and Rivera, as innocent victims.

While Pangaro and Carrero each earned more than $1,000 in the alleged scam, Alvarez and Rivera each earned less than $100, while Longo earned $140.

"Odalys Alvarez, Joe Rivera and myself said it was bull---- that Pangaro was getting paid for not being there while we were there working when he wasn't, " Longo said.

Attorneys for Rivera and Alvarez said Longo's statement further strengthens their case.

"The statement seems to indicate that my client may have been aware that there were some problems with some officers. It does not indicate that my client participated in any scheme," said Rivera's Newark attorney, Joe Rotella. "If he testifies to the truth, my client is still not guilty."

Alvarez's Passaic attorney, Thomas C. Kaiser, said "it's impossible" for prosecutors to prove their case against his client.

In return for the guilty plea entered Thursday in state Superior Court, Paterson, Longo, 29, will be allowed to seek reinstatement to the police force, although he will likely face an administrative hearing, said Deputy Police Chief Richard Wolak.

"Technically, he could still be fired," Wolak said.

Longo could also come away with a clean record if he satisfies the conditions of a strict probation program, said Chief Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Arthur G. Margeotes.

Bruno Mongiardo, Longo's Ridgewood attorney, said his client "will continue his cooperation with the prosecutor's office."

Attorneys for Carrero and Pangaro did not return telephone calls on Friday.

Margeotes, who said he was upset that Longo's statement was leaked to this newspaper, has offered plea deals to all of the officers and said that the offers are still valid.