Lawyer for some East LA CHP officers charged in overtime fraud scheme calls case a witch hunt

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California's attorney general has charged dozens of California Highway Patrol officers who had been stationed in East Los Angeles for allegedly taking part in a years-long overtime fraud scheme involving protection detail for Caltrans workers.

Attorney General Rob Bonta's office filed charges against 54 current and former officers at the CHP's East L.A. station. The officers are facing 302 counts such as grand theft and fraud. Their alleged exaggerated overtime claims total $226,556.

"These defendants disregarded the law through their alleged actions and did so without thought of how their conduct would impact the California Highway Patrol or the community that trusted them to protect and serve." Bonta wrote in a prepared statement.

Investigators allege that the officers reported additional overtime hours when they were providing protection detail for Caltrans workers through the Maintenance Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program and the Construction Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program during a span from January 2016 to March of 2018. You will often see CHP patrol cars at these freeway work sites providing extra protection for the workers.

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Dozens of current and former CHP officers from the East L.A. station have been charged with racking up more than $226,000 in phony hours in an overtime fraud scheme, California's attorney general said.

Attorney Tom Yu is representing 16 of the officers charged in this case.

"They're innocent of all the allegations," Yu told Eyewitness News. "They were following what they were trained to do and they were following the protocols that's been prescribed by the California Highway Patrol."

The attorney general's office also says three of the former officers submitted fake hours worked patrolling High Occupancy Traffic Lanes and made up fake warnings and reports of driver assistance to support their claims.

The alleged fraud was uncovered by an internal CHP investigation in 2018.

Yu says his clients are being targeted by the CHP because of a labor grievance filed by the East L.A. station's union reps at that time. He calls the case a witch hunt that will fail in court because the statute of limitations on the charges have expired.

"This has been going on for 10 to 20 years," Yu said. "No one stole and no one defrauded the state of California."

The 54 current and former officers accused in the scheme are slated to be arraigned in mid-March. Of the 54 charged, 11 are still employed by the agency, the highway patrol said.

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