Gary detective charged with 3 felonies in ghost payroll case
Post-Tribune staff report April 5, 2013 12:32AM
Jennifer Powell during a Gary Police officer swearing in ceremony In August 2002. | file photo~Post-Tribune
GARY — Detective Jennifer Powell, an 11-year-veteran of the Gary Police Department, was charged Thursday with three felonies for allegedly working three jobs that overlapped hours for the past year.
Powell, 36, a resident of the Miller section of Gary, was charged with one count of ghost employment and two counts of theft, all Class D felonies that carry a maximum prison term of three years each.
A warrant was issued for her arrest shortly after the charges were recorded in the clerk’s office about noon. She was expected to surrender to the jail and immediately post $10,000 bond. She is represented by former Gary Mayor Scott King, who swore Powell in when she was hired on the force in August 2002.
Powell, a former CSI detective, has been working as a sex crimes investigator. She likely will be transferred to non-police related duties as is the practice when Gary officers are charged with a criminal offense.
The investigation began in late January, when Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram requested the Indiana State Police investigate allegations that Powell’s work hours were overlapping.
On Tuesday, Ingram said he knew “nothing official” about the investigation, “only rumors.”
State Police Detective Chris Campione reviewed timecards from the police department and the Lake County Jail, and spoke to supervisors at Jack Gray Transport on 15th Avenue near Clay Street in Miller where Powell worked as a security guard.
From April 22 to Oct. 5, Powell claimed she worked both at the jail and police department for a total of 10 hours “of wages lost” from Gary, the probable cause affidavit states.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich terminated Powell on March 21 after learning of the potential ghost payrolling. Her one-year probation there would have ended March 26, he said, adding it appears she also falsified some information on her job application.
From April 29 to Jan. 22, she worked 93.5 hours at Jack Gray when she also was being paid to work at the jail, court records state. Powell was paid an extra five hours from Jack Gray to perform administrative work, including scheduling other officers to serve as security guards. Other officers who worked with Powell said she was paid for the job, then distributed checks to them.
An investigation by Gary Internal Affairs Division Sgt. Derrick Cannon also showed Powell failed to submit “off duty authorization forms,” notifying Gary of her additional jobs, the affidavit states.