Retired police officer accused of misusing $71K in union funds enters plea

Retired Newport Police Officer and former FOP President Christopher Hayes

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — The former President of the Newport Fraternal Order of Police entered a plea before a federal magistrate Friday morning as part of an agreement to eventually plead guilty to spending just under $72,000 from the union’s bank account on himself.

Christopher Hayes, who retired from the police force as the accusations surfaced in July of 2015, is accused of a “fraud scheme” for using his FOP debit card for personal expenses and writing checks to himself from the FOP account.

He was released on $10,000 unsecured bond after a brief hearing before Federal Magistrate Lincoln Almond.

Neither Hayes nor his attorneys commented after the proceeding.

According to the federal Information filed on Monday, the 25-year veteran also paid a credit card bill with money from the account.

The document states “approximately $71,523” was “fraudulently converted” by Hayes in a scheme that lasted from “at least August 2009” through December 2014.

The current union president said the case did not involve city or taxpayer funds.

The case will now be moved to an arraignment before U.S. District Judge William Smith, at which time the agreement says Hayes has agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud.

According to the plea agreement, the government will recommend a two-level reduction in the offense level, but prison time is also part of the mix, as are many other possible recommendations.

“The government is free to recommend any combination of supervised release, fines, and restitution which it deems appropriate,” the plea agreement states.

The agreement also indicates the guidelines are not binding for the court.

Newport officials contacted by Target 12 have not responded to requests for comment about the impact of the felony on Hayes’s pension.

Current Newport FOP President Jason Brown emphasized the case did not involve city or taxpayer funds, and he said the crime is not “reflective of the Newport Police Department or the 25 honorable years that Sgt. Hayes served in his capacity as a Police Officer.”

“This has been a long-standing investigation in which the union and our members were the victims,” Brown said. “It would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed that this ever happened.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau