Report Details Gun Theft Allegations Against Former Mashpee Deputy Police Chief Todino
By: Brian Kehrl
Mashpee Police Chief Rodney C. Collins accused former deputy police chief Albert E. Todino had altering invoice records to conceal his theft of a handgun purchased by the department, according to the internal affairs investigation report produced by Chief Collins in response to allegations last fall that Mr. Todino illegally possessed a police department weapon.
The chief found that Mr. Todino used his position in charge of inventory control within the department to remove a handgun before other officers had a chance to log the weapon into the department’s equipment list.
Two department handguns previously held by Mr. Todino—one that he allegedly stole and one that he was issued by the department but lost track of—ended up in Mr. Todino’s ex-wife’s possession in Florida, according to the report. The ex-wife mailed the guns back to the police department soon after the chief contacted her regarding the theft allegations, according to the report.
In the 34-page report, which was reviewed by the Enterprise this week after it was released under a state public records request, Chief Collins laid out the sequence of events beginning with the initial accusation one year ago this week and ending with a termination hearing canceled when Mr. Todino stepped down from his post, ending his 15-year career with the department.
Chief Collins prepared the report, which included 24 exhibits of evidence that were not made available to the Enterprise, as the culmination of an administrative investigation into the gun theft allegations.
The document was to be used in the termination hearing scheduled for last October.
A criminal investigation into the allegations by the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, which used the chief’s report as evidence, decided in April that the evidence in the case was not sufficient to meet the threshold of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to charge Mr. Todino criminally.
The Enterprise reviewed the records at the police department Wednesday evening. Mr. Todino could not be reached for comment yesterday before the Enterprise went to press.
Jeremy M. Carter, a Hyannis-based attorney who represented Mr. Todino in the administrative investigation, said the chief’s allegation that Mr. Todino altered department records to conceal his theft of the weapon was not proven.
“We deny all of those allegations,” Mr. Carter said. “I think there was an agenda put forth by an individual who is no longer on the police force. And I wanted, as did Mr. Todino, to confront the charges. But a settlement was reached.”
Mr. Carter declined to discuss the terms of Mr. Todino’s resignation, other than to say that he maintained his full pension and healthcare benefits.
In 2008 Mr. Todino was the town’s sixth-highest paid employee, earning $121,243, though only $98,000 of that amount was due to his salary.
Chief Collins likewise has declined to discuss the terms of the resignation.
The town initially denied the public records request filed this summer to review the files related to the internal investigation. Following an appeal, the state Secretary of the Commonwealth overturned the denial.
The investigative report was made available to the Enterprise with a handful of names of individuals peripherally related to the case redacted.
The report is a dramatic narrative of the Chief’s investigation into charges against his second in command, wading through conflicting and evolving accounts of what happened through interviews with three main sources: Mr. Todino; his ex-wife, Teresa Todino; and former MPD officer Paul A. Coronella. It is a chronicle of the events surrounding the Todinos’ divorce, what is described as a vendetta held by Mr. Coronella against Mr. Todino, and the development of a clear sense from the chief that he felt personally betrayed. It is the construction of a case against Mr. Todino, with lengthy asides by the chief questioning the deputy chief’s behavior.
The investigation began with a telephone message Chief Collins received from former officer Paul Coronella on Thursday, September 10, 2009, stating that it was regarding something “very important.”
The two later spoke on the telephone and Mr. Coronella said he had knowledge that Mr. Todino had taken a firearm belonging to MPD and that the weapon was now in Florida, with Ms. Todino. Mr. Coronella said he had received the information from Ms. Todino and that he could provide a photograph of the .40 caliber Sig Sauer pistol.
Mr. Coronella would go on to play a major role as an informant in the investigation, speaking with the chief on several occasions through the investigation and eventually taking and passing a polygraph test to prove his truthfulness.
Mr. Coronella, however, was himself dismissed from the department in 2004 after an internal investigation determined that he had taken part in unprofessional and illegal activities while on duty. Mr. Todino presided over that hearing.
In a telephone interview this week, Mr. Coronella said the former deputy chief was in part responsible for the end of his position with the police department. “Al manipulated the press and everything that was going on during the investigation,” Mr. Coronella said.
Mr. Coronella said he in turn has been investigating Mr. Todino for six years.
Mr. Coronella said he has requested an investigation into Mr. Todino’s ethics by the Massachusetts Bar Association. Mr. Todino is a licensed attorney and practiced law as a second job while serving as the deputy chief.
Mr. Coronella said he has filed a public records request to obtain a copy of the internal affairs investigation report, a request that was denied by the town. He said he has appealed the denial and declined to comment on specific aspects of the report until he has reviewed it.
Chief Collins in the report only briefly acknowledged Mr. Coronella’s history. “It should be noted that Coronella was terminated as a police officer from the Mashpee Police Department prior to my appointment in January 2005. However, I have no personal knowledge of Coronella providing me with any false information,” Chief Collins wrote.
According to the report, Mr. Coronella acknowledged pursuing the issue in an effort to discredit Mr. Todino. In separate instances in the report, Mr. Coronella and Mr. Todino refer to the other as a “liar.”
In an interview Wednesday, Chief Collins said that regardless of Mr. Coronella’s motives, he credited the former officer with providing the information that led to the return of the weapons.
To back up the accusations by Mr. Coronella, Chief Collins relied on a series of interviews with Mr. Todino, Ms. Todino, and evidence collected during the investigation.
When confronted by the chief, immediately after the chief’s first conversation with Mr. Coronella, with the question of whether an MPD weapon was in Florida, Mr. Todino admitted that it was, according to the report.
Mr. Todino said he forgot his primary gun at work one day, borrowed a separate weapon, and never returned it, according to the report. He initially said Ms. Todino stole the weapon from him, but after speaking to Ms. Todino on the telephone from Florida, said she accidentally took it when she moved there in fall 2008 following the couple’s separation, according to the report. In his conversation with Ms. Todino, the same day the chief raised the issue, Mr. Todino arranged for Ms. Todino to mail the weapon back to Cape Cod.
Mr. Todino said he had tried previously to secure the return of the weapon but the couple had been advised by their respective attorneys not to contact each other, according to the report. Mr. Todino described the weapon as a hostage of his troubled relationship with Ms. Todino, an account verified by Ms. Todino. Ms. Todino used some of the estimated 17 to 20 guns in the house as a “bargaining chip” in the divorce settlement, Chief Collins wrote.
Ms. Todino, a former Wellfleet police officer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Chief Collins wrote that he reviewed the inventory and purchase records and determined that a weapon was missing.
The chief confirmed with Lieutenant Michael J. Sexton that Mr. Todino had borrowed a weapon and that Lt. Sexton did not ensure its return because Mr. Todino was a superior officer.
But when Ms. Todino mailed the weapon back up to Cape Cod, the gun was in a matching box and appeared never to have been used, according to the report. Lt. Sexton said the returned gun was not the heavily used weapon Mr. Todino had borrowed.
“However, mysteriously, there was no recording of the serial number on the master inventory list of the firearm in question,” Chief Collins wrote.
Chief Collins concluded, following additional interviews with department officers, that Mr. Todino had returned the gun he took out on loan, and the gun mailed from Florida was taken before it was logged onto the department inventory list.
He notes in the report that the shipment of weapons came in two packages with two invoices, one with a single weapon and one with 44. The missing weapon was never noticed because the two invoices were never reconciled, so the 44 weapons in the department’s possession did not conflict with the main invoice listing 44 weapons.
The serial number of the returned weapon was one number different than Mr. Todino’s issued weapon.
When Chief Collins and other department officers opened the package mailed by Ms. Todino, it also contained a second MPD gun.
According to the report: “In researching the Beretta, it was determined that four Beretta handguns had been purchased by then Chief Maurice Cooper. One was issued to Chief Cooper, one was issued to Deputy Chief Todino; one was issued to Lieutenant Sexton; and one was issued to Lieutenant [Jon] Read. Three of the four Berettas were traded in during the transition to Sig Sauer weapons. However, the Deputy Chief was permitted to maintain two handguns. [However, it was learned that the Beretta was not on the master inventory list and the question was why not? Due to the fact that the Deputy Chief was responsible for inventory control of all department property, this heightened my concern.]”
“I contacted Deputy Chief Todino by telephone. After making contact, I advised him, ‘We have a problem.’ I explained that I had recovered the Sig Sauer firearm. I then stated that I had also received a ‘Beretta Cheetah.’ Deputy Chief Todino replied, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t even know that she (Teresa) had that. I thought it was still in my safe. It’s the department’s gun. Chief Cooper got me those guns,’ ” according to the report.
Chief Collins placed Mr. Todino on administrative leave the following morning and assigned himself to conduct the internal affairs investigation, which concluded with a recommendation to terminate Mr. Todino's employment with the department.
A few days later, Chief Collins wrote, he spoke to Mr. Todino on the telephone and said he "never felt so betrayed in my entire 29 years of my law enforcement career...Todino responded, 'I know. I personally apologize to you.' I replied, 'You need to apologize to the people of Mashpee. You breached their public trust. You are making one-hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year and you stole two firearms valued at less than a thousand dollars.' "
The final note in the report is an addendum referencing a conversation Chief Collins had with Mr. Carter soon before the hearing was scheduled to be held. Chief Collins reported that Mr. Carter said Mr. Todino acknowledged that he removed a firearm from a box shipped to the MPD in 2005, but that he thought he could keep two weapons “because he was the deputy chief.” Mr. Carter said Mr. Todino believed every weapon was accounted for, according to the memorandum.
“I explained that the representation made was ‘inconsistent’ with everything the Deputy Chief had asserted up to this point,” the chief wrote. “However, I explained to Attorney Carter that in my opinion the Deputy Chief was ‘lying to cover up more lies.’ ”
The chief wrote that he invited Mr. Todino to take a polygraph test, but Mr. Carter responded by asking what incentive Mr. Todino would have in taking the lie-detector test.
In an interview this week Mr. Carter said Mr. Todino had nothing to gain from taking the lie-detector test because Chief Collins declined to drop the charges if the test indicated that Mr. Todino was being truthful.