RANDOLPH - A police officer has been accused of stealing from Brazilian men he arrested in traffic stops.
A police officer has been accused of stealing from Brazilian men he arrested in traffic stops.
Disciplinary proceedings began Monday night against Patrol Officer Fabiano Estrela, 29, an eight-year veteran of the department. Police Chief Paul Porter has asked selectmen to fire Estrela, who has been on paid administrative leave for the past six months.
‘‘The evidence at this hearing will show that Fabiano Estrela is a corrupt cop,’’ said Assistant Town Counsel Peter Berry.
Berry said Estrela ‘‘targeted vulnerable immigrants’’ in the alleged scheme, ‘‘misappropriating their money and valuables.’’
In four separate incidents between November 2005 and last December, Estrela is accused of taking $2,174 in cash, a credit card, and a gold bracelet from men he arrested for traffic infractions.
He is also accused of lying to a state police polygraph examiner during an interview, in violation of departmental regulations.
Estrela’s lawyer, George Hassett, questioned the credibility of his client’s accusers.
‘‘They’re all illegal aliens committing criminal acts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,’’ Hassett said.
The missing cash and property could have been taken by others, Hassett told selectmen. He noted that one driver for a company which towed two of the vehicles has a record for larceny and drug thefts.
He also questioned the results of the polygraph test, which was held at the Canton police station. Since Estrela worked on a drug investigation with Canton officers, the result of the test may have been thrown off when Estrela saw officers he knew, Hassett said.
A second polygraph test was requested by Hassett, but he said his request had been denied.
After more than three hours of testimony, the hearing was recessed until 5 p.m. on Sept. 5, when the victims of the thefts are expected to testifym, as well as other officers who responded to the calls. An additional hearing date of Sept. 6 has also been set.
Selectmen Chairman Paul Connors said the hope was to conclude testimony on Sept. 6.
The disciplinary hearing is being held in public at the request of Estrela.
The investigation was launched by Detective Lt. Arthur Sullivan on Dec. 29 after he received information from Police Sgt. William McNamara.
In the course of the investigation, Sullivan testified he found ‘‘people arrested by Fabiano Estrela were missing money and property.’’
Estrela was placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 23 while the investigation continued.
In all four cases, Estrela told the men he arrested to leave their wallets in their cars before they were placed in Estrela’s police cruiser. The cars were later towed to a lot. The victims found the money and other items were missing when they returned to the cars.
Estrela in some cases handled the booking of those arrested, a task usually done by a senior officer. This is because Estrela speaks Portuguese, the language of Brazil.
During the booking process, cash and other valuables are recorded and the cash is given back to the person being held in the department’s lockup, testified Randolph Police Lt. John Courtney.
Sullivan said that in one case, the missing items were noted in the police log, but Estrela failed to complete the report. The amount of cash and items of property missing also differed, he said.
One victim reported the loss of approximately $1,300, Courtney testified.
Investigators believe Estrela took the money because he was having financial problems. The officer filed for bankruptcy, and owed about $30,000 to a former girlfriend, Sullivan said.
Records of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Boston indicate Estrela was discharged from bankruptcy in June 29, 2004. In his petition, he listed $71,241 in debts and total assets of $14,200.
In the filing, Estrela reported annual income averaging about $66,000 for the three years preceding the filing.
Sullivan said that during questioning in March by State Police Sgt. David Domingos, a certified polygraph examiner, Estrela denied he had any involvement in bankruptcy, foreclosure or repossession proceedings.
Domingos concluded from the polygraph examination that ‘‘the subject, Mr. Estrela, was being deceptive in his answers to the relevant questions.’’
In response to questions from Hassett, Domingos said Estrela’s answer to the financial question was not recorded by the polygraph.
Fred Hanson of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.