Government & Politics

6 Kansas City workers indicted by federal grand jury for alleged $58K overtime fraud

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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.

A federal grand jury has indicted six Kansas City public works employees who allegedly collected nearly $60,000 in overtime for responding to mostly bogus reports of damaged or missing street signs.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a statement Thursday that the six public works employees were part of an overtime fraud conspiracy that ran from January 2013 to November 2016. As a result, they received more than $58,000 in what’s believed to be fraudulent overtime pay, according to the statement.

All six — Prentis Rayford, 36, Eric McKamey, 47, Paul Myers, 61, Edward Lee Ellingburg, 47, Kenneth Gethers, 33, and Julio Prospero, 49 — appeared in court for the first time Thursday afternoon and heard the charges read aloud.

According to the statement, the employees, their friends and relatives 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 indictment says 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.

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

Chris Hernandez, a spokesman for the city, 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 that is, 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.

The six employees are also charged with wire fraud because of the allegedly fraudulent payments that were included in their paycheck deposits.

The case is pending in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

All of the defendants have been ordered to appear in court again for an arraignment scheduled July 19.

The Kansas City Police Department and the FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney will prosecute it.

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.