With just hours to go until his trial, a former Louisiana State Police trooper accused of billing taxpayers for dozens of overtime hours he did not work pleaded guilty Monday to theft and falsifying public records.
The ex-trooper, Daryl J. Thomas Jr., was among four current and former State Police troopers arrested in 2018 following the agency’s own probe into a program called Local Agency Compensated Enforcement, or LACE — a traffic-ticket program funded by district attorneys across the state. Over a nine-month period, Thomas logged more than 100 overtime hours he did not work, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said in written comments Monday.
Thomas was sentenced to three years active supervised probation and was ordered to pay restitution to State Police, Moore said. The district attorney said his office agreed during conversations about a deal to drop another charge of malfeasance in office.
Reached by email Monday, Thomas’s lawyer, Eric Hessler, said he had no comment on the deal.
Thomas’s case was perhaps the most egregious spotlighted by a 2017 investigation by New Orleans-based WVUE-TV that featured undercover footage of troopers claiming overtime pay for hours they spent at home. One of the most prolific ticket writers in the state and a 23-year State Police veteran, Thomas fell among the highest-paid employees in the state some years due to the eye-popping sums of overtime he billed to taxpayers, The Advocate reported after his arrest.
He was paid $147,000 in overtime alone in both 2015 and 2016, thanks in large part to LACE, a statewide traffic-ticket program intended to raise money for district attorneys, public defenders and other law enforcement agencies. Participating district attorneys reimburse State Police for extra-duty shifts worked by troopers.
Thomas, speaking against the advice of his attorney before the Louisiana State Police Commission in 2018, portrayed himself as a workaholic given to carelessness and excessive “errors” in his paperwork. He vehemently denied claiming time for extra-duty hours he did not in fact work.
Court records show Thomas’ trial was slated to start Monday. The 11th-hour deal materialized instead, according to Moore. In total, Thomas pleaded guilty to 15 counts of filing fake public records and a single count of theft between $5,000 and $25,000.