Fifty-four current or former California Highway Patrol officers from the East Los Angeles Area Office have been charged in an alleged multiyear overtime fraud scheme totaling more than $225,000, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Thursday.
Bonta said he filed the charges earlier this month, and that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department booked the officers on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Arraignments for all 54 are scheduled for March 17 and March 18 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"Trust is a critical part of successful law enforcement. 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 said in a statement.
"I'm thankful to CHP for its thorough investigation, and for working with DOJ (the Department of Justice) to hold these officers accountable.''
According to Bonta, the charges grew out of an internal criminal investigation by CHP into whether officers from the East Los Angeles Area Office padded the number of overtime hours they worked.
Bonta's office said the officers face a total of 302 counts, and that the allegedly fraudulent amount of overtime came to $226,556.
The CHP began its investigation in May 2018, investigating fraud that allegedly occurred between Jan. 1, 2016, and March 31, 2018.
"During that period, multiple officers in the East Los Angeles station were suspected of recording additional overtime hours when they were assigned to provide protection detail for Caltrans workers through the Maintenance Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program or the Construction Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program,'' Bonta's statement said.
"For instance, rather than recording the three to four hours actually worked at a detail, an officer would allegedly record and receive pay for eight hours of overtime.''
Three of the former officers allegedly recorded fake hours worked patrolling High Occupancy Traffic Lanes, Bonta said — adding that, to support their overtime claims, they manufactured fake warnings and assistance given to drivers.
In addition, Bonta also refiled charges against nine defendants who were the subjects of a previous complaint filed in July 2021.
Apart from the fraud probe, two of the 54 defendants were arraigned in May 2021 on charges of conspiracy and three counts each of accepting a bribe in connection with a bribery scheme, according to Bonta's statement.
Bonta said the pair allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for falsifying documents to register exotic "gray market'' cars.
In a statement, the CHP said it takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.
The officers have been placed on administrative time off and their peace officer powers removed, the statement said.
"The CHP uncovered the overtime fraud in the East Los Angeles area several years ago during an internal examination," the statement said.