A Houston police officer handed another man a speeding ticket and probably didn't realize that the offender he was citing was also a cop. What this ticket-receiving officer noticed on his paper slip though has led to a department-wide investigation.
KHOU-TV believes it uncovered a ticket scheme in which Houston officers include the name of another witness officer who was not actually present. This later results in overtime pay when the officer has to appear in court. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
"I immediately [knew] that something's hinky with the ticket," the man KHOU-TV only identified as Jerry said. "There was no other officer, he was the only officer there."
The ticket, however, listed another officer as an additional witness.
KHOU launched an investigation into Jerry's claims and uncovered an alleged "ticket-rigging scheme," where cops listed on tickets who were not actually present at the time of the offense were cashing in on overtime when they appeared in court later.
The Houston Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation into the issue, putting three officers — Gregory Rosa, Robert Manzanales and John Garcia — on desk jobs during this time.
KHOU reported that a fourth officer identified as Rudolph Farias, who was also being investigated, committed suicide earlier this week in a police parking garage. The 51-year-old was on the force for 21 years and, according to KHOU, made $158,000 in overtime within the past three years. How much of that could be due to falsely reported tickets is unknown at this time.
Here's more from KHOU about what it uncovered:
The I-Team found the alleged ticket-rigging scheme took place mostly on highways. In one case in May, Officer Manzalnaes put Officer Farias down as a witness at 11:24 p.m. at I-10 and Westcott Street.
But at the same exact time, records show Farias was writing a ticket nine miles away at I-10 and Wilcrest.
In other example in April, three officers at once allegedly were in on it along the Katy Freeway. At 11:30 p.m. at the 610 Loop, Officer Manzanales listed Garcia as a witness on his ticket. But at 11:31 p.m, Garica also is a witness at Beltway 8, on a ticket Officer Rosa wrote. But records show at 11:31 p.m., Rosa is a witness over at Highway 6, on a ticket written by Officer Garcia.
Watch KHOU's report about the investigation:
Ray Hunt, president of the police officer's union, told KHOU that these officers are considered "innocent until proven guilty."
Police Chief Charles McClelland offered a similar perspective to KPRC-TV.
"I can't assume there's an irregularity. I can't assume the officers falsified a government document. I can't assume anything until I have proof or evidence," he told the news station.