A Frankfort Police Department officer has pleaded guilty to criminal charges of stealing about $27,000 in gasoline from the city to fuel lawn equipment and his personal vehicle.
Former Officer Rick Tucker appeared in Franklin County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon to hear the charge and enter the plea. He was the subject of an investigation after suspicious activity on his department-issued Fleet One credit card led to the discovery that the officer had used the card repeatedly over the course of six years to purchase $27,172 in gasoline for personal use.
Tucker pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking or disposition of property over $10,000 in value, a Class C felony.
As part of his plea agreement, Tucker could face up to five years in prison, has to resign from the FPD with prejudice and will repay $27,172 to the department “from the proceeds of (Tucker’s) retirement account,” court records state.
According to FPD reports, administrators became aware of unusual activity in early July on Tucker’s Fleet One fuel card, meant only to be used in fueling his service vehicle. FPD opened an internal investigation and found that Tucker had been “using his fuel card inappropriately.” Tucker was placed on unpaid suspension on July 17 and eventually submitted his resignation on Aug. 9, officials wrote in a press release.
As the investigation unfolded, authorities found that Tucker had been using the Fleet One card for personal use from January 2013 until July 11 of this year. Investigators found that Tucker had spent $27,172 with the department-issued card to “obtain gasoline for (his) private vehicle and other gasoline-powered equipment or vehicle owned by (Tucker),” which investigators identified as lawn equipment.
Chief Chuck Adams said Tucker had been an officer for about 15 years. Adams was unclear how the activity went undetected for so long.
“I couldn’t answer that question,” said Adams, who was recently appointed as police chief. “I don’t know what they did before. I just know I looked at the fuel bill and saw some concerning activity.”
Adams said he did not see any other officers with suspicious activity. He said while the occurrence was disappointing, appropriate policies were put in place to punish similar behavior on the force.
“It’s disappointing,” Adams said. “All these officers depend on each other, and when something like this happens, it’s a letdown. But we’ll move forward and work to gain the trust of the community every day.”
Adams previously told The State Journal that the use of gas cards in the department is mostly based on the honor system.
“It’s supposed to be just for patrol cars,” Adams said in a July interview about the investigation. “Each vehicle has its own card, and each officer has their own PIN (personal identification) number. And that’s how we track that.”
It was unclear whether the incident involving Tucker will result in any departmentwide, gas card usage policy changes.
The case did not have an arraignment or grand jury consideration. Tucker was “charged by information,” which means he waived the case going before a grand jury for indictment, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland.
“You only do that when someone is going to plea,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland said that the restitution in the plea agreement was meant to ensure that FPD is repaid the total amount stolen. Tucker will receive the rest of his retirement from his lengthy service in FPD, which is “substantially more than $27,000,” Cleveland said.
“He’s getting a pretty stiff penalty here,” Cleveland said. “He’s got to pay back a lot of money, and he’s got a felony hanging over his head. No more law enforcement career for him, but we can’t have officers stealing.”
Tucker is set for a sentence hearing Oct. 31 before Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate. The Commonwealth’s Attorney Office has taken no position on probation for the five years Tucker faces as part of the plea agreement as long as he discloses “all knowledge and information he has regarding theft of property of the Frankfort Police Department,” according to court documents.
“I expect he’ll get probation,” Cleveland said. “It’s his first offense, he’s former law enforcement, etcetera.”