NEW ORLEANS - The full weight of the federal government was on display Thursday as two New Orleans police officers were hauled to court on charges of payroll fraud.
Veteran officers Quincy Jones and Rafael Dobard appeared in handcuffs, shackles and prison jumpsuit after being arrested Wednesday by the FBI.
After a brief court hearing, U.S. Magistrate Karen Wells Roby granted both officers their release on $25,000 recognizance bonds, prompting the officers’ attorneys to question the heavy-handed tactics of an arrest rather than a summons.
“Given the allegations, seeing them arrested and brought to court was very strange,” said Jones’ attorney Townsend Myers. “I don’t understand why they did that. Frankly, based on what I have reviewed, I don’t see anything that stands out as explicitly illegal about anything he has done.”
In two nearly identical criminal complaints, the officers are accused of being on the clock for the city at the same time they were getting paid for off-duty details in the B.W. Cooper and Guste public housing complexes.
The officers are charged with double-dipping on seven different occasions in July 2012. Jones is accused of being paid $1,855 by the city during the overlapping hours, while Dobard is accused of being paid $2,268.
"It seems like trying to kill a fly with a hand grenade,” said Dobard’s attorney Eric Hessler. “The allegations are somewhat benign. It doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of money at issue, if at all. Something like this routinely would be handled in an administrative manner. Again, I can't even tell you that there's any merit to the allegations as I see them."
Hessler said the charges did not merit arresting the officers and parading them into court in handcuffs, especially given their free release after a night in jail.
“It's going to be a records case and these records can often be confusing,” Hessler said. “The time clocks were run by the city of New Orleans, so I'm a little bit skeptical already."
According to an FBI press release announcing the arrests on Wednesday, the officers also are being investigated on theft allegations, although there is no mention of such allegations in the criminal complaints.
“In addition to the payroll fraud charges,” the press release states, “it is also believed that both police officers were stealing money intended for confidential investigative purposes.”
Dobard, 39, is an eight-year veteran of the NOPD assigned as a narcotics detective in the Fourth District. Jones, 33, is an 11-year veteran also assigned as a detective in the Fourth District, which encompasses Algiers. Both officers were placed on emergency suspensions following their arrests.
The officers are due back in court for preliminary hearings on Nov. 27.