Joshua Fernandes, former treasurer of the NB Police Union charged with wire fraud
NEW BEDFORD – A former police sergeant and treasurer of the New Bedford Police Union was charged Monday in federal court with wire fraud for allegedly embezzling nearly $ 50,000 in union funds from 2016 to 2019, court documents show .
Joshua Fernandes, 42, from New Bedford, has agreed to plead guilty, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced on Tuesday.
With union funds, the former sergeant reportedly spent about $ 1,000 on a hotel stay in Florida; over $ 3,000 in tickets to New Kids on the Block, Comic-Con and Hanson; over $ 100 for the online dating site Match.com; and over $ 1,000 at the Toy Vault in Dartmouth.
Background:FBI investigates New Bedford Police Union finances
The case also alleges that Fernandes spent more than $ 14,000 to pay her phone bills and those of her family. In total, the federal government alleges that it stole at least $ 48,000 in union funds.
The New Bedford Police Union collects dues from around 240 members, which are used to pay for union-related expenses such as organizing, fundraising and day-to-day operations, according to the court record.
As treasurer, Fernandes had control of the union’s two bank accounts and a duty to ensure that funds were disbursed property, the record says. The prosecutor’s office alleges that Fernandes transferred tens of thousands of dollars from one union account to another to cover up his embezzlement.
The indictment law provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years on probation and a fine of $ 250,000, according to the prosecutor’s office. Sentences are imposed by a judge in a federal district court based on US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
2019 arrest and dismissal of the department
Fernandes had previously been arrested for following his ex-wife with a GPS, taking his minibus and smashing the windows of the vehicle. Following a hearing into the dangerousness of the charges in May 2019, a judge ordered Fernandes to seek treatment instead of jail, the Standard-Times previously reported.
He was one of the first responders to the Foxy Lady rampage in December 2006, where a bullet hit him in the mouth and came out near his ear. In 2019, Fernandes’ lawyer argued in court that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of the shooting.
Looking back:Foxy Lady shooting hero files disability case after harassment arrest
Fernandes previously told The Standard-Times that he was fired after his arrest, but a spokesperson for the department in 2019 did not say if he was fired.
Problems with union finances
Hank Turgeon, president of the union, told The Standard-Times in January 2020 that the FBI was investigating the union’s finances and that a private accounting firm was conducting a forensic audit at the request of the board of directors.
Turgeon said Fernandes served as treasurer from 2011 to 2019.
About a year later, in 2021, a 19-page document was emailed to union members alleging nearly $ 675,000 in undocumented union spending since 2011.
The document, obtained by the Standard-Times, is not an official report, but rather contains the opinions and detailed notes of a lieutenant based on their review of a financial report.
In response to the document’s allegations, Turgeon said NBC News 10 in January that the United States attorney’s office received the union’s financial records after the audit was completed, and the board took “many steps” to put in place safeguards.
Turgeon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday regarding the new charge against Fernandes.
Assistant US Attorney Eugenia M. Carris is pursuing the case and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fernandes’ lawyer Erin Opperman said she had no comment on the charge.
A plea hearing has not yet been scheduled. Opperman and Liz McCarthy, spokespersons for the US attorney’s office, said Fernandes is not currently in federal custody and that his initial appearance was scheduled for August 3 via Zoom.
Standard-Times reporter Anastasia E. Lennon can be reached at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @ aelennon1. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.