BUFFALO, NY-- A Buffalo Police officer and former Buffalo Common Councilmember has found himself on the wrong side of the law.
Federal prosecutors have filed charges against Robert Quintana, who was arrested Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Attorney's office says Quintana is accused of abusing sick leave and receiving benefits to which he was not entitled.
WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the criminal complaint
Investigators say Quintana, who was a Buffalo Police officer, had been receiving full pay and benefits while being listed as "injured on duty" (IOD) for an extended period of time.
Hochul says suspicions began when Quintana had claimed he was hurt in 2005 while responding to a call and slipping on icy stairs, falling down a flight of 15 steps, but that the stairs in question only had six steps.
He says Quintana was then observed on 11 occasions working at a restaurant when he said he was unable to work, and worked without the permission of the police commissioner.
"He was observed cleaning tables, carrying boxes of food and drinks, in effect managing this business, and in effect, getting paid for his work. It also appears that Mr. Quintana may not even have told his doctors that he was working at his outside employment," Hochul said.
Quintana is charged with health care fraud and mail fraud.
"It's a sad day when you arrest a police officer, but it's a good day when you get him off our force," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Derenda said the city began reviewing the status of its officers who were listed as "injured on duty" (which entitles them to full pay and benefits even though they are off the job) when it realized the percentage of those designated as such, was five times the national average for similar sized cities.
"The mayor asked me to look into this because those numbers seemed out of whack," Derenda said.
While the federal probe continues into other possible cases of abuse, Derenda says the city has already taken steps to reduce the number of officers listed as IOD.
He also credits a change in city policy, implemented less than a year ago, with reducing those numbers.
In July, 2011, the job of monitoring IOD cases was removed from the Department of Human Resources (where it had been for several years) and placed into the hands of the police.
"We started with 123 officers on IOD status, seven of whom were working light duty. In less than a year, we are now down to 63 officers on IOD status, with sixteen of them working light duty," said Derenda, who noted the number will be reduced even further next month when several officers who have been listed as IOD will retire from the force.
Derenda said the FBI was contacted by the city to investigate suspect IOD cases, because it had the manpower and resources to conduct a more thorough probe.
"Our internal affairs department is small," said Derenda, who added that because the investigation required surveillance, it was thought that those being monitored would more easily be able to identify those watching them if they were undercover officers from the Buffalo police.
Hochul and FBI officials say the investigation continues, and inferred others may be charged.
A source tells 2 On Your Side as many as seven other police officers receiving pay and benefits while IOD might face charges, under similar circumstances to Quintana's.
Hochul claims Quintana collected close to a half-million dollars in pay and benefits he wasn't entitled to during his seven years of being on IOD, but that the loss to taxpayers was even higher, when you factor the income taxes he was not required to pay on the amount, and the overtime the police department may have paid others to do the work Quintana would have had he been on the job.
Incalculable, and perhaps worse, according to Hochul, is the price that will be paid by all of law enforcement for Quintana's alleged misdeeds.
"Law enforcement officers depend as much as anything on their integrity and credibility...this calls the integrity of other officers possibly into question, including other officers who may legitimately on IOD, and who truly are no longer able to work," Hochul said.
Quintana was arraigned late Wednesday afternoon before United States Magistrate Hugh Scott, where he entered a not guilty plea and was released on his own recognizance.
Derenda said Quintana would be suspended without pay immediately following his arraignment.