Ex-officer gets 20 years for stealing $656K from union
 
                
 
  Brian Rogers reporting        No. of views: 229
 
Former Houston police officer Matthew Calley, 46, weeps after his brother takes the stand during Calley's sentencing on Thursday in Houston. Photo: Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran/© 2011 Houston Chronicle
When Ray Hunt, vice president of the Houston Police Officers' Union, saw one of the organization's treasurers betting with orange chips at a Louisiana casino in 2004, he had to ask what they were worth.

"They were thousand-dollar chips," Hunt testified. "I bet with red chips. They're five dollars."

The man with a fistful of orange chips was Matthew Calley, 46, who was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in prison for stealing more than $656,000 from the union over seven years.

Hunt testified that he asked a friend of Calley's if the veteran officer had a gambling problem.

On Jan. 22, 2010, the answer began to reveal itself when a $40,000 shortfall in union coffers came to light. An attorney for Calley said Friday the officer was a gambling addict and stole more than half a million dollars to fund the habit.

"I'm truly sorry," Calley said after being sentenced.

The 25-year Houston police officer is part of a law-enforcement family that includes two brothers who are HPD officers and their father, who is a Victoria County deputy.

'Betrayal of trust'

Testimony showed Calley stole more than $400,000 from an account dedicated to helping officers in dire financial straits and providing scholarships. It was funded by telephone solicitations of citizens and businesses.

The rest of the money Calley took was from the group's political action committee's account. Speaking to Calley, state District Judge Michael McSpadden said the 20-year sentence was because of the amount taken and "the betrayal of trust."

Calley faced punishment ranging from probation to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree felony theft in excess of $200,000 and misapplication of fiduciary funds.

On Thursday, Hunt said Calley did not deserve leniency and should not get probation.

"I was very disappointed," Hunt said of discovering the theft.

Hours after the theft was discovered, Calley tried to get the checkbooks and other records of his pilfering out of the union offices, prosecutors said. He had been locked out and the books locked up.

Calley resigned from the HPOU board and turned himself in to authorities a day later. He broke down as he told a police psychologist he had a gambling problem. A month later, he retired.

He told investigators he had no idea how much he had taken, mostly in $2,000 to $7,000 chunks he skimmed off deposits before putting them in the bank.

"Everything's a fog," he told police and friends who asked him how much he took.

He also paid his credit card bills with checks from the union's check register, careful to fake a carbon copy with a legitimate vendor's name. He was even able to pay his American Express bill using a union account through his phone, which he did a day before being caught.

Several friends and family testified on Calley's behalf before he was sentenced.

"You're the judge, but I'm begging for mercy for my son," Arthur "Luke" Calley said on the stand.

Nothing repaid

Prosecutors Matthew Peneguy and Terese Buess repeatedly noted that Calley had not paid the union back any money despite promises of restitution.

Gary Blankinship, the union's president, said emergency union funds were not affected because the money was stolen gradually and not in one large amount.

"We've always had money in that account,'' Blankinship said. "Realize this went on for years and years to reach that amount. ... We were always able to meet obligations."

Blankinship said the thefts could have affected the number of scholarships awarded to children of police officers, but added they stayed "fairly consistent" over the years the theft occurred.

Details of Calley's misdeeds emerged after two other union officials also were arrested for stealing from the organization.

Two other cases

Former Houston police officer Ronald L. Martin, 55, was sentenced to 10 years probation and restitution of $40,000 after pleading guilty in February to theft by a public servant.

Martin and his former son-in-law Jeffrey Larson, 43, both union officials, were indicted in 2008 on felony charges of misapplication of fiduciary property, accused of allowing between $100,000 and $200,000 to be stolen from the union.

Larson's case is pending trial.

Staff writer James Pinkerton contributed to this report.

[LawReport.org Administrator's note: He should go to prison but 20 years is excessive.]
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  Filed Under: Embezzlement, Forced RESIGNATION, Get caught and retire/suicide, mis-conduct POLICE/Sheriff/FED, Stealing/stolen goods/by deception/services
 
 
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