A veteran Florida state trooper has been dismissed after Palm Beach County prosecutors charged him with a $200,000 theft involving a side business he ran.
Florida Highway Patrol officials said 50-year-old Robert Purser was fired Wednesday, the same day charges were filed. Court records show Purser is free on bail but do not list an attorney for him. Purser had been with FHP since 1990.
Prosecutors say Purser's side business provided off-duty troopers for a Hialeah construction company. The off-duty troopers would close roads while maintenance was being done on Florida East Coast Railroad tracks.
A court affidavit says Purser allegedly overbilled the Hialeah company, claimed hours worked when troopers weren't there and overstated the number of troopers at some sites.
"The ability to work off-duty is not a right, but a privilege," said Florida Highway Patrol Major Sammie Thomas. "And we have policies in place to make sure that our members are following those policies and we take violations of those policies seriously."
Prosecutors said Purser used his Palm Beach-based business in a fraud that netted him over $31,000 in 2010, $86,000 in 2011 and more than $90,000 last year. Purser carried out his scheme by charging the Hialeah firm for phantom or non-existent troopers and double-billing them, prosecutors said.
Purser declined to comment on the charges.
Sources said Purser's activities and those of other troopers triggered a close examination of FHP off-duty details from Key West to Tallahassee.
An Inspector General's report done this summer showed poor record keeping, with names and other data missing. In half of the cases supervisors approved the details after -- not before -- they were completed. Now FHP is installing new rules across the board.
"Based on the recommendations from the IG's office, the highway patrol is now looking at our policies," Thomas said. "We are adjusting those policies to ensure that our members can be in compliance with the new standards and the new policies that are going to be issued shortly."
The new rules call for alternative methods of scheduling troopers, including limiting the number of off-duty jobs and setting a standard rate for pricing.
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