BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana State Trooper Daryl Thomas makes more money than any other law enforcer in Louisiana, more than any district attorney, police chief, the attorney general, even his boss, the superintendent of state police.
Last year, taxpayers paid this trooper $240,000, but an undercover surveillance investigation by Raycom Media, backed up by timesheets and traffic citations, shows Thomas may not have legally earned much of that money.
"I'm so fed up and sick," said Patrick Lynch, a CPA with Rogers, Lynch and Associates who comments frequently on cases of public impropriety.
"I'm outraged," said Tulane law professor, Joel Friedman. "This is absolutely, as a matter of criminal law, theft."
Raycom Media Investigative Reporter Lee Zurik and his team spent seven months working on a series of investigative reports on the matter. Raycom Media owns WAFB and three other Louisiana television stations including WVUE in New Orleans, where Zurik is based.
After Zurik brought his findings to the head of Louisiana State Police, Superintendent Kevin Reeves, this week put Thomas and two other troopers on paid leave pending a criminal investigation.
The allegations against Thomas were brought to light in the first of a series of investigative reports that aired on WAFB Wednesday night. Several more reports, that include the allegations against the other two troopers, are scheduled to air over the next week.
The first of the series of reports showed that on August 17 of this year, Thomas claimed on his timesheet that he started work at 7 in morning, but our undercover camera spotted him leaving for work 2 and a half hours later, at 9:35 a.m. For 155 minutes, Thomas stayed at home while earning money from taxpayers.
"You should be patrolling or doing a patrol function," said Reeves when we asked him about the discrepancy.
We had an undercover camera at Thomas' house for 12 different work days over the past few months. We found for those 12 days when Thomas claimed hours on his timesheet, he didn't work all of them.
For September 4, on Labor Day, Thomas billed taxpayers for 16 hours. The first six hours, he worked a ticket writing overtime shift in St. Charles Parish. From noon to 10 p.m., his timesheet shows, he worked his regular state police shift, but our undercover camera caught Thomas at home from 11:10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Almost six hours of that work day, Thomas didn't work.
The next day, September 5, Thomas' timesheet shows he worked until 10 p.m., but he arrived home at 6 p.m. and stayed there until 9:12 p.m. Three of the last four hours of his shift, Thomas' car remained in his driveway.
And on September 6, Thomas claims he worked form 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., but our surveillance unit spotted him arriving home at 9:26 a.m. He left at 12:43, but less than six hours later, he once again pulled into his driveway, and his car stayed there for three hours, until he left just after 9 p.m. Of the 16 hours Thomas billed taxpayers that day, he remained in his house for six of them.
"You don't have to take a class in criminal law to know that you can't submit fraudulent timesheets," Friedman said.
"The allegations are very concerning," Reeves said. "They're very troubling."
After we brought our findings to LSP, Reeves placed Thomas on administrative leave and launched a criminal investigation. "We have to conduct an investigation here to see exactly what we're looking," he said. "What we've seen on the camera is of great concern."
Thomas has historically been the highest overtime earner in the state and has consistently ranked among the state's highest paid employees. The last two years, he's made $240,000. Each year, that included $147,000 in overtime.
The numbers are startling, meaning Thomas billed taxpayers for, on average, 83 hours of work a week.
"These are red flags that screaming to somebody to look into," Lynch insists.
Those overtime levels caught our attention seven years ago, when we asked then LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson about Thomas' workload and overtime. "Know him well, good trooper, very hard worker," Edmonson said in 2010. "I can assure you, every one of those hours he put down, he worked."
Edmonson guaranteed his work product then. Now, we have proof he may not have worked all the hours he claimed. "You're committing payroll fraud and you're being paid like executives are being paid," Lynch said.
This is not the first time a question has been raised about Thomas' timesheets. Twenty years ago, Thomas received a four-day suspension for a discrepancy on his timesheet. They caught him claiming work on his timesheet he never performed. Lynch calls this a clear case of payroll fraud. "There's no doubt about it," he said.
Every day our surveillance camera spotted Thomas, he had discrepancies:
- August 8, 10:24 a.m., his car at home while his timesheet shows him working a seat belt enforcement shift
- August 18, he's home from 11:20 a.m. through much of the afternoon, even though he claims to work a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift
- August 22, he arrives home at 7:57 p.m. and stayed there for the remaining three hours of his shift that ended at 11 p.m.
- August 23, a 12-hour work day, but we found him at home for almost three hours of his shift
- September 11, we found his car at home for three hours of his regular 10-hour shift
"Going and staying at your house is unacceptable for anybody in Louisiana State Police while you're being paid," Reeves said.
"I'm outraged that I'm paying for work that is clearly based on your reporting and that tremendous undercover work done by your staff," Friedman says. "It's blatant, it's obvious."
Our State of Unrest investigation continues Thursday on WAFB 9News at 10.
West Feliciana Parish
East Feliciana Parish
St. John Parish
St. Charles Parish
Jefferson Davis Parish
West Carroll Parish
East Carroll Parish
St. Landry Parish
St. Martin Parish
St. Mary Parish
St. Tammany Parish