New York, NY – The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) removed its former treasurer from the board after federal authorities claimed he signed off on hundreds of illegitimate expense reimbursements for newly-charged former union boss Ed Mullins.
Federal authorities announced on Feb. 23 that Mullins was being charged with “one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the SBA, through the submission of fraudulent expense reports,” according from a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
“As alleged, Edward Mullins, the former President of the SBA, abused his position of trust and authority to fund a lavish lifestyle that was paid for by the monthly dues of the thousands of hard-working Sergeants of the NYPD,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said.
“Mullins submitted hundreds of phony expense reports to further his scheme, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the SBA,” Williams continued. “This Office is committed to rooting out corruption at all levels of government, and that includes public officials like Mullins who use their positions of power to line their own pockets to the detriment of others.”
Prosecutors said that Mullins, who has been SBA president for almost 20 years, had his spending kept in check by former SBA Vice President Robert Ganley until Ganley retired in 2017, the New York Daily News reported.
But when former SBA Treasurer Paul Capotosto took over the responsibility, he didn’t apply the same level of scrutiny to the reimbursements that the union boss requested.
Federal authorities said Capotosto rubber-stamped Mullins’ expense reports and regularly reimbursed the union president without requiring receipts for the claimed expenditures.
Capotosto approved hundreds of expense reports containing more than $1 million in reimbursements to Mullins between 2017 and 2021, according to the press release.
Charging documents said that Mullins regularly included meals that were not SBA-related in his expense reports and that on some occasions, he inflated the costs of the meals.
“For example, if the actual cost of a meal was $522.55, Mullins would seek reimbursement from the SBA for $822.55, and pocket the difference,” the press release read. “At times, Mullins would even write out these changes on his personal credit card statements that he maintained at his home – i.e., crossing off ‘522.55’ and writing in ‘822.55,’ thereby documenting his false statements.”
Prosecutors said Mullins also asked and received reimbursement from SBA for personal expenses such as grocery bills, gift cards for friends and family, hundreds of high-end meals, clothing, jewelry, home appliances, and even college tuition for a family member.
Authorities said that Mullins inflated his actual reimbursable expenses in order to steal more money from the union.
“Mullins maintained two copies of his credit card statements in his home office,” according to the press release. “The first copy, often labeled with a sticky note bearing the words ‘Clean Copy,’ had no annotations or markings. The second copy, often labeled with a sticky note bearing the words ‘Work Copy’ or ‘Work Sheet,’ had Mullins’s handwritten annotations and markings throughout.”
Prosecutors said that Mullins frequently increased the amount of his expenses and sometimes changed the type of expense from an item that could not be reimbursed to one that could, and noted it all by hand in the paperwork investigators found when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided his home and the SBA’s headquarter in October of 2021.
“For example, in April 2021, Mullins changed a $45.92 charge to an $845.92 charge at a wine bar in New Jersey; a $609.89 charge to a $909.89 charge at the Steakhouse; and a $185.88 charge at a supermarket on Long Island to a $685.88 charge at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan,” according to the press release. “Mullins then submitted those fraudulent expenses, without receipts, to the Treasurer for reimbursement.”
“Likewise, in August 2021, Mullins changed a $49.60 charge to a $89.60 charge for a diner on Long Island; a $53.56 charge to a $153.56 charge for a restaurant on Long Island; a $96.16 charge at a supermarket to a $396.16 charge at a restaurant on Long Island; a $152.42 charge to a $352.42 charge at a deli on Long Island; and a $464.00 charge to a $664.00 charge at a pizza place on Long Island,” the release continued. “Once again, Mullins submitted these fraudulent expenses, without receipts, to the Treasurer, who approved the reimbursements.”
Charging documents alleged that Mullins fraudulently obtained most of the more than $1 million in reimbursements he received from SBA.
Capotosto stepped down as treasurer of the organization after the FBI served the search warrants at Mullins’ home and office and became citywide secretary for the SBA, the New York Daily News reported.
SBA’s new president, Vincent Vallelong, sent a message to the union’s membership the day that Mullins surrendered to authorities that said Capotosto was no longer a union board member.
Not all of the SBA membership has bought into the charges against their former leader.
One NYPD sergeant told The Police Tribune that he wanted more details about the inappropriate expenses because there could be a lot of things Mullins would purchase in his capacity as a union boss that might seem unusual.
“The pricey meals don’t bother me because that’s pretty much what we expect from them and what they’re known for,” he explained. “And I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt on some of the other stuff, too, until we know exactly what’s what.”
The sergeant pointed out that while an appliance purchase might seem strange, it would be something Mullins would buy for the wife of a fallen officer with a broken washing machine or dishwasher.
He said that same sort of thing could be true of jewelry or clothing purchases, and told The Police Tribune he was going to reserve judgment for the time being because Mullins had been such a passionate and successful advocate for his union for so many years.
“Notice it’s not the state who has brought the charges against Mullins. It wasn’t an investigation that was spurred or requested by the union membership,” the veteran NYPD sergeant said.
“Are they looking for justice or are they looking to ruin him?” he asked.
Another member of SBA told The Police Tribune that the FBI had become “the political enforcement arm of the Democrat machine” and said they weren’t going to immediately buy into the prosecutors’ claims that Mullins was cooking the books.
“I know the two sets of receipts they’re talking about looks bad but the FBI is not above political witch hunts,” the source said.
Mullins has pleaded not guilty to the charge against him, the New York Daily News reported.
SBA has not held an election since 2014, the last time that a member challenged the former incumbent.