Norwich— The president of the city police union filed a complaint Tuesday alleging that the police station was used Saturday for an illegal NASCAR gambling ring in which the on-duty shift commander and numerous off-duty police officers participated.
Officer Joseph T. Dolan said about 25 people — including six civilians — came to the station Saturday afternoon and were there for 90 minutes. Dolan did not attend the gathering but was told that participants paid money and “bets were recorded,” he wrote in a two-page letter on union stationery to City Manager Richard Podurgiel.
The union chief alleged that the station was being used as a “betting parlor” on taxpayers’ time and money, and that Podurgiel and the City Council need to exercise tighter control over the department.
The on-duty supervisor attended the gathering, away from his normal position in the office adjacent to the dispatch center, he said, and when it was over, a folder marked “Nextel Cup” was brought to the supervisor’s desk. The supervisor, Dolan said, made phone calls to participants who were unable to attend.
The on-duty shift supervisor that night was Sgt. James Deveny.
Dolan said he was not criticizing the off-duty officers — union members — because they were participating in an event he believes was sanctioned by the department.
Police Chief Louis Fusaro said Tuesday that Dolan misrepresented the incident, calling the letter “wild accusations.” Fusaro appointed Deputy Chief Warren Mocek to investigate the allegations and is awaiting a report.
But on the surface, Fusaro said, he believes Dolan’s allegations are baseless.
The activity in question involved the start of an annual NASCAR fantasy league, in which participants pay an entry fee — said to be $30 to $40 — and choose racers and cars from NASCAR competition. Participants keep track of their teams during the racing season and may trade cars or racers. At the end of the year, the league coordinator compiles points, buys a trophy for the winner and distributes the money based on standings.
“I’m insulted, not only for myself but for my officers,” Fusaro said. “I don’t believe this is anything illegal. It has promoted camaraderie. They’re having fun. They’re not placing bets. They’re not gamblers, they’re racing enthusiasts.”
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal would not comment on any specifics involved in the Norwich complaint, or whether fantasy sports leagues constitute gambling.
In general, Blumenthal said social games, including card games, are not prohibited. But if there is an organizer who profits from the game — in essence a “house cut” — it may become a professional gambling activity.
Dolan sharply criticized Fusaro for allowing the activity, quoting department regulations that prohibit gambling of any kind and also forbid “loitering” at the station by people not doing business with police. Dolan said he spoke to Fusaro on Tuesday morning and the chief was unaware of the previous weekend’s activity. But Fusaro admitted he participated in the event last year.
Dolan later said the chief’s attitude is symptomatic of “a general lack of discipline” at the station. He hopes his complaint will force changes that will result in the creation of a civilian police review board and a more professional approach in the department. He said Podurgiel should take more interest in what goes on at the station.
“I’m begging for someone to take an interest in our police department,” Dolan said.
The City Council has refused to support poker online uang asli calls in recent years to create civilian oversight of the police. Those calls came after other scandals rocked the police department in recent years.
One incident included allegations that officers gave alcohol to minors who volunteered in stings on local package stores that were suspected of selling alcohol to minors. In that controversy, a veteran police lieutenant also was accused of abusing overtime and of taking semi-nude photographs of young women who volunteered. He was later fired.
And a year ago a veteran officer pleaded no contest to charges of defrauding his insurance company by faking the thefts of motor vehicles he owned. That officer, who also owned a local bar in violation of state law, resigned from the police department after he learned he would be fired.
Podurgiel said he spoke to Fusaro at length Tuesday about the complaint and Saturday’s event. The city manager, however, declined to comment until he receives a written report from the deputy chief regarding the incident.