In 2014, Massachusetts Police Detective Kevin Burnham retired after 43 years on the job with the Springfield Police Department.
Local media celebrated him as a dedicated cop who could have retired ten years earlier, but chose to stay on out of pure love for his job.
Now it appears as if he stayed on solely for the purpose of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the department’s evidence room.
Burnham, who was the narcotics evidence officer, is accused of stealing nearly $400,000 from December 2009 until July 2014.
He was apparently living a comfortable retirement with that money along with his monthly pension before he arraigned last month in court on several counts of larceny.
He probably would have continued stealing money had an investigation not have been launched into the missing money in the summer of 2014, which was when he announced his retirement and was honored with a party.
Dozens of colleagues, friends and family gathered in the department’s squad room at about 11:30 a.m. for the traditional pizza and cake farewell.
The 65-year-old Burnham beamed as he moved about the room, shaking hands and hugging all he encountered. He laughed often as he swapped jokes and stories with well-wishers.
Burnham, at 65, could have retired 10 years ago. He opted, however, to stay on another 10 years. “I really enjoyed coming to work,” he said. “It’s going to be hard not to answer the bell tomorrow morning at 5 o’clock.”
Kevin Burnham, a decorated and now retired Springfield police detective, pleaded not guilty in Hampden Superior Court on Monday to several charges relating to nearly $400,000 missing from the Springfield Police Department’s evidence room.
It was a stunning fall for the once-beloved police department veteran, who retired as its senior officer in 2014 after 43 years on the job. At the time, he passed along badge No. 1 along with his longtime responsibilities in the evidence room, over which many officers said he virtually lorded for decades.
The first signs of trouble – at least publicly – came several months after Burnham’s retirement party at police headquarters, where several of his colleagues lauded him as a “great guy” with an infectious laugh.
Burnham had a system where he would take money out of envelopes seized from suspects, then replace that money with either counterfeit money that was seized in other cases or real money that was seized from other other cases.
Meanwhile, lawyers whose suspects were found not guilty would ask for their client’s money back and the department would tell them the money is “unaccounted for.”
The money would be repaid only after years of legal wrangling but it’s not clear from where the money came from.
“The Defendant has made repeated requests upon the Springfield Police Department for the return of his currency and has been told they have been unable to locate it; the Defendant has now been deprived of his property for almost two years,” a motion Bongiorni filed with the court read.
In both his clients’ cases, the city Law Department issued checks despite the missing status of the cash.
“They did the intelligent thing and paid the money,” Bongiorni said during an interview at the time.
The city offered no explanation to Bongiorni as to where the money might be, however. When asked if he had been unable to recover money seized as evidence on behalf of his clients in recent memory, Bongiorni, who has practiced criminal defense law for decades, responded:
“This has never happened to me.”
Burnham has pleaded not guilty and is out on bond after giving up his passport, his guns. Read his indictment here.
Evidently, there is no surveillance camera in the department’s evidence room.