Crime

Indicted KC public works employees, accused of overtime fraud, appear in court

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Six Kansas City public works employees accused of collecting more than $58,000 in overtime for responding to mostly bogus reports of damaged or missing street signs made their first appearance in federal court Thursday.

The six defendants, including five who no longer work for the city, were allegedly part of the overtime fraud conspiracy that ran from January 2013 to November 2016, according to an indictment unsealed and made public Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

The defendants are Prentis Rayford, 36, Eric McKamey, 47, Paul Myers, 61, Edward Lee Ellingburg, 47, Kenneth Gethers, 33, and Julio Prospero, 49. All were led into a courtroom in restraints Thursday afternoon and heard the charges read aloud: one count of conspiracy and 12 counts of wire fraud.

As the prosecutor went over the charges and range of punishment if convicted, some looked down while others stared straight ahead. All were ordered to appear in court again for an arraignment scheduled July 19. The judge said each defendant would be appointed a public defender.

Because the state did not ask for the defendants to be detained, all were placed on release.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, the employees, their friends and relatives allegedly called the city to report missing or damaged street signs that were considered essential in order to generate overtime work.

The employees submitted time sheets and work orders for signs they either falsely claimed to have repaired or that they repaired during regular shifts and then claimed overtime.

The sign division of the Kansas City Public Works office suspected the alleged fraud in the summer of 2016 and investigated from August until November of that year, court records said.

“During that time,” the release said, “approximately 75 percent of all call outs were found to be fraudulent. The city then reported its findings to the FBI for further investigation.”

Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said the city was disappointed in the allegations.

“But this is not news to us,” Hernandez said. “We are the ones who discovered it, investigated it internally and took disciplinary action against those who were involved in this scam.”

All six workers were disciplined, Hernandez said, and only Prospero remains a city employee.

Asked why Prospero is still employed, Hernandez said there are thousands of public employees who take their public service seriously and wouldn’t defraud the city.

“And it’s always good when you have people who are strong enough to acknowledge that when they see something that should not be happening,” Hernandez said.

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.
Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.
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