FORT LAUDERDALE – Fort Lauderdale police officer David Michael McElligott has been charged with wire fraud related to a theft scheme. He surrendered at the federal court house in West Palm Beach early this morning.
“It was the objective of the scheme and artifice to defraud for the defendant to enrich himself unjustly by presenting fabricated, falsified and altered Military Leave and Earnings Statements and military orders to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and City of Fort Lauderdale, in order to increase the supplemental pay and benefits paid to him as a City of Fort Lauderdale employee,” read documents filed in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday.
The investigation of McElligott, 47, first came to light in a report published in the Nov. 10, 2011 edition of the South Florida Times.
“He turned himself in this morning," his attorney Howard L. Greitzer said. "It was originally scheduled to take place in Fort Lauderdale in the afternoon, but I had the venue and time changed."
Greitzer said his client has been released on $50,000 bond and he anticipates reaching some sort of plea agreement.
McElligott was hired as a Fort Lauderdale police officer in 1991. As a member of the Air Force Reserves, he took military leave on Sept. 21, 2001, shortly after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. He was stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.
The City of Fort Lauderdale supplements the pay of employees who are volunteer military reservists for up to five years, after that time those benefits are only continued if their duty becomes mandatory. Federal agents accuse McElligott of fabricating military orders, and other documents which indicated his extended military service was mandatory and involuntary since May 22, 2003.
This allowed him to continue receiving supplemental pay, benefits, and annual longevity bonuses he was not entitled to.
As detailed in a Nov. 18, 2011 South Florida Times report, over time McElligott purchased a home in Warner Robins, Georgia, where he was stationed. He also enrolled his children in local schools, giving rise to speculation that he never intended to return to South Florida.
If convicted on all charges he is facing up to 20 years in prison, three years of probation, and as much as $250,000 in fines.
McElligott entered a plea of not guilty and will return to court in a few weeks to change his plea, where he is expected to accept the terms of a plea agreement.
He is currently on administrative leave with pay from the Fort Lauderdale police department, but officials say his status will be changed to suspension without pay now that charges have been filed.
*Picture above is David M. McElligott