Independence workers accused of misusing fuel cards

Four town of Independence maintenance workers were arrested Tuesday following an investigation into allegations of employees misusing fuel cards.

Booked with unauthorized use of an access card were Reginald Jefferson, 54, 124 N. First St., Independence, nine counts; Jerome Cook, 55, 13076 Velma Road, Independence, three counts; Charles Garafola, 55, 265 W. Wilson St., Hammond, two counts; and John Henson, 49, 62466 Church St., Roseland, two counts, Police Chief Frank Edwards III said.

The total cost to the town for the alleged fuel card abuse was approximately $1,000, Edwards said.

Henson also was booked on one count of theft under $500 for allegedly giving away four tires from a town-owned vehicle slated for auction as surplus, Edwards said.

The police chief said he received information in January that several of the town’s maintenance department employees were possibly fueling up their personal vehicles using town-issued gas cards.

Police Capt. Chris Chappell conducted an investigation into the use of FuelTrac cards by both maintenance and Police Department employees “to ensure a thorough investigation without bias,” according to a Police Department narrative report of the incident.

Chappell reviewed hours of surveillance video for a three-week period in January from the two gas stations where the unauthorized use allegedly occurred, John’s Exxon and QuickWayGas, both in Independence.

All police fuel purchases were made by an officer pumping gasoline into a police unit, but there was “obvious misuse of the town’s fuel cards by several of the town’s maintenance personnel,” according to the narrative report.

“The misuse involves the fuel being pumped into personal vehicles belonging to the town employee, also being pumped into unknown other vehicles with the town employee utilizing the card and in some cases an unknown person using the town’s gas card to pump fuel into vehicles,” the report states.

The four employees’ fuel cards were revoked by the Town Council in January, at the police chief’s suggestion, following an initial look into the allegations, Edwards said.

Since then, the employees have submitted to police questioning and, following a March 25 Town Council vote to press charges, agreed to turn themselves in Tuesday morning, Edwards said.

The police chief said he does not expect any more arrests in this investigation.

The case will be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for a determination of whether formal charges will be filed, Edwards said.