Zurik: LSP trooper may have falsified tickets

Zurik: LSP trooper may have falsified tickets
Updated: Jul. 10, 2018 at 10:00 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Traffic tickets from September 6 of this year show Louisiana State Trooper Daryl Thomas wrote a citation at 10:45 in the morning.

But that's not possible - at the time Thomas says he wrote that ticket in St. Charles Parish, our undercover surveillance spotted his car about 40 minutes away, at his Harvey home.

"Wow, that's unbelievable," says Tulane law professor Joel Friedman.

The next day, September 7, Thomas claims he wrote a ticket at 11:10 AM - the same time our undercover surveillance unit recorded his car at his house. Fast forward to 11:45: Thomas is still at home, but once again he claims he wrote another ticket.

"What does this tell me? The first one wasn't a negligent mistake," Friedman tells us.

These findings had us digging deeper into Thomas'ss tickets.

Trooper Daryl Thomas is the highest-paid law enforcer in the state; he makes $240,000 a year. More than half of it comes by way of overtime, and much of that is earned through what's called the LACE program - a ticket-writing detail that allows troopers to be paid by parish district attorneys to work extra shifts and make extra money.

Our months-long undercover surveillance investigation found Thomas may have falsified timesheets, claiming he worked full LACE overtime shifts but instead spending much of that time at his house. Thomas can't be two places at the same time - He is writing these tickets, but we figured out he may be falsifying times to help justify his overtime.

James Flick helped us figure it out. We got a copy of the ticket he received in St. Charles Parish in January 2016.

"I normally watched my speed," Flick tells us.

It just so happens that's one of a handful of days we requested all of Thomas' tickets from State Police.

According to the ticket State Police sent us, Flick received the citation at 2000 hours, or 8:00 at night. The trooper indicates that he wrote the ticket at 8:00 at night.

"No, it definitely wasn't 8:00 at night," Flick says.

He recalls that Thomas flagged him on his way home from work around 3:00 in the afternoon.

"I know this definitely wasn't at nighttime," he says. "This was definitely during the daytime. I've never gotten a ticket at nighttime."

So, we requested dashcam video from State Police. And it shows Flick receiving his ticket in daylight, not 8:00 at night. In fact, the time stamp shows the video started at 14:59, or 2:59 in the afternoon.

"That is really amazing," Friedman responds. "That establishes to me that this was a preordained, thought-out plan to falsify the citation records for the purpose of obtaining compensation under the LACE program. There can be no other explanation when you separate the two out."

But there's more. Flick sent us the ticket he received from Thomas. The time, while not fully legible, is different. Most noticeable: the "2," found on the State Police version that indicates 8:00 at night, is missing from Flick's copy.

"He separated the original from the copy," Friedman says. "That's the only way this could happen."

That January day, Thomas worked a 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM LACE shift. In addition to Flick's ticket, Thomas alleges he wrote citations at 4:47, 6:30 and 7:49. But that's impossible because, according to his dashcam, he didn't write one ticket after 16:22, or 4:22.

We obtained dashcam video from the traffic stop in which Thomas says he wrote his 7:49 PM ticket; the timestamp reads 1517, or 3:17 in the afternoon.

"It's just slam-dunk evidence of his intent to deceive and to falsify," Friedman tells us. "And in any criminal matter, intent is important. It seems to me this establishes his intent both to falsify, which is itself injuring a public record - that's a separate crime - but also to aid and abet him in support of his efforts to engage in theft by submitting falsified timesheets for the LACE program."

According to dashcam video, Thomas wrote two of those January 2016 tickets before 3:00 - before his LACE shift even started. The "B" indicates it's a LACE ticket, but Thomas wrote them while on his regular State Police shift.

We asked LSP Superintendent Kevin Reeves, whether a trooper may write tickets for LACE while working regular shifts. His answer: "Absolutely not."

On November 25, 2016, there's a "B" on another Thomas LACE ticket, the time 13:50 or 1:50 in the afternoon. But Thomas's LACE shift didn't start that day for another hour and 10 minutes. Thomas's LACE shift that day ended at 11:00 PM.

According to tickets, Thomas wrote four near the end of his shift, at 8:30, 8:40, 10:20 and 10:40 PM. But dashcam video timestamps provided by State Police show Thomas wrote his last ticket at 5:50, well before the times on those last four tickets.

That makes four more citations Thomas alleges to have written late into his LACE shift that dashcam video indicates he wrote much earlier.

Col. Reeves tells us, "There's obviously a difference between writing down the wrong time and it's a mistake that you wrote down the wrong time... Now, if you're intentionally writing down the wrong time on citations, then that's of grave concern to us. The time that someone gets stopped and issued a citation for a violation, that's the time that needs to be on the document."

But intentionally marking the wrong time on such a citation is a criminal offense," Reeves says.

Friedman tells us the crime of injuring a public record is "punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine, for every time you do it."

We've found 11 different instances of potentially falsified ticket times.

"I bet, if you go back far enough, you'll find dozens and scores of these things," Friedman says.

We tried to find more. We looked closer at July 5, 2016, when Thomas worked a LACE shift from 3:00 to 11:00 PM. What seemed strange to us is that Thomas wrote tickets quickly, almost every five minutes. That's four instances of Thomas supposedly spotting a speeder, pulling over the car, writing the ticket and finding another violator.

"It's inconceivable to me that you could do two or three tickets in 10 or 15 minutes," Friedman says. "One ticket, possible. But multiple tickets... 12 tickets in an hour - it's not physically possible, you know, unless you're standing there and you're just waving six cars over at a time."

Thomas alleges he wrote most of his tickets that day between 3:00 and 4:00, and then pulled over one more violator near the end of his shift at 9:00 PM. We requested dashcam video from that day, but State Police told us it wasn't working.

Friedman says the act of falsifying a ticket, combined with allegations of payroll fraud, could build a significant case for investigators. "One could be a mistake," he acknowledges. "But this pattern can only be explained as an attempt to cover up and justify the falsification of the timesheets. This is part of a criminal enterprise by this trooper in engaging in theft."

Thomas and three other state troopers are under criminal investigation. We sent Thomas a letter asking him for a comment. He received it, but hasn't responded.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.