|Tax-subsidized embezzlers: Mark and Sara Furniss|
To understand why the public cannot confide in government-employed police to protect private property, it is useful to consider how frequently police steal from each other – and members of the public who ingenuously donate to police-operated charities. This isn’t because police officers are under-paid; it is because their occupation cultivates a sense of privilege and contempt for other people’s property.
The median annual household income in Idaho is roughly $49,000. Mark Furniss, 46, was making almost $20,000 a year in excess of that figure when he resigned from his job as a Boise Police Officer on October 20, the same day that he and his wife Sara filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. At the time, Sara was employed as a “safe schools assistant” in the recently created West Ada School District.
Together, Mark and Sara Furniss easily cleared $100,000 a year in salary and benefits, which is more than enough for their family of four to enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle in Boise. Yet Mark and Sara allegedly used their positions as president and office manager, respectively, with Treasure Valley Lodge #11 of the Fraternal Order of Police to embezzle $73,000 over a five-year period.
The couple’s pilferage from the FOP’s accounts was noticed no later than February, which is when he was confronted by the organization’s president over his use of a union credit card to buy tickets to a Pittsburgh Pirates game and make more than $500 in personal purchases at a department store. A forensic audit was conducted, which quickly discovered that Mrs. Furniss had been systematically overpaying herself (she drew a salary from the FOP), misusing a lodge credit card, and had caused hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees. She later disclosed to investigators that she had set up an automatic withdrawal from an FOP account to pay the family’s cable television bill.
Detective Gary Marang of the Nampa Police Department, which has investigated the matter to avoid a conflict of interest, recalled in an affidavit that the couple also used FOP funds to make a $2,700 down payment on a travel trailer. They most likely intended to make use of that trailer to flee the jurisdiction: After filing for bankruptcy on October 20 (listing the FOP as among the “creditors” who would be stiffed by them), Mr. and Mrs. Furniss reportedly planned to head north to Alaska in search of a “fresh start.”
Like countless others, the Mark and Sara rode the housing bubble and fell hard in 2008 when it burst. Their financial disclosure form lists a total of $572,992 in assets, including a Meridian home valued at $230,000. Their estimated liabilities are $384,095, which includes “more than a dozen credit cards and five charge accounts,” observes the Idaho Statesman. They had also purchased two expensive late-model SUVs. Despite the fact that they both drew very generous tax-subsidized salaries, they listed their monthly income at $869, with $5,742 in monthly expenses. Perhaps the most shocking line item in the form was the disclosure that the total value of the family’s checking accounts was $864.
In the two weeks prior to the couple’s November 25 arrest, their FOP chapter had collected more than $73,000 through a GoFundMe account to raise money for three officers – two humans and a “K9 officer” – who were wounded in a shootout with a fugitive. It would have been useful for the public to know that the people in charge of the lodge’s finances had embezzled nearly an identical amount.
Mark and Sara have two very young children, a fact that will be taken into account when they are given the customary Blue Privilege discount at sentencing time. Former Richfield, Ohio police officer Michael Simmons benefited from official leniency when his own longstanding embezzlement from the local FOP was discovered.
Simmons has confessed to stealing more than $26,000 the FOP’s “Shop with a Cop” program, which is used to buy Christmas gifts for poor children.
One might expect to see exemplary punishment imposed on someone who committed a Dickensian offense of that kind. One would be wrong to do so, when the offender is a member of the state’s enforcement caste.
As was the case with Mark and Sara Furniss, Simmons squandered money raised for charitable purposes on personal expenses and luxuries, including electronics, clothing, tools, and tickets to sporting events. Rather than being sent to prison for felony theft, the 42-year-old Simmons was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence, two years of probation, and 500 hours of community service. He will also be required to pay back only $15,000 of the money he stole, so full restitution – which is the only legitimate punishment for a crime against property – will not be required.
According to Richfield, Ohio Police Chief Keith Morgan, one reason Simmons won’t be required to pay back the full amount is because “the program’s lax bookkeeping made it difficult to pin down exactly how much was stolen and how much went to legitimate purchases,” reports the Akron Beacon Journal.
Simmons’s attorney, Mark Guidetti, says that the judge’s very generous terms will allow Simmons to move on with his life and get another job. Now that he is tagged with a fourth-degree felony, it’s likely that he won’t find another gig involving a gun, badge, and qualified immunity.
Embezzlement from FOP lodges is stunningly commonplace. One would expect that law enforcement officers, zealous for the honor of their coercive fraternity, would inflict exemplary punishment on those within their ranks who steal from their comrades in the brotherhood. As with so many other offenses, however, “professional courtesy” applies even to those who can’t keep their snouts out of the FOP’s trough.
Former Hernando County, Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Glatfelter was given five years’ probation after siphoning away $14,000 from the local FOP lodge – and more than $1,000 from a special fund established to benefit the family of a colleague who had died in an on-duty traffic accident. Struthers, Ohio Patrolman Thomas Granchie was allowed to resign without facing administrative charges after he admitted to stealing nearly $5,000 from his FOP lodge in 2007. Judge William Kobelak spoke sympathetically of Granchie as he sentenced the thirty-year veteran officer to 90 days house arrest for what should – and would – have been felony theft if committed by a Mundane.
“I want to look at him as a person with both good and bad things in his life;” Judge Kobelak said, apparently treating Granchie’s decades of service to the murderous abstraction called the “State” as extenuation for his self-serving felonious conduct. “This black cloud hanging over his head is always going to be there.”
Actually, that black cloud dissipated very rapidly. It was Granchie’s tax victim-provided police pension that proved to be permanent; this was made possible when the court dismissed the felony count and allowed the thief to plead guilty to a single charge of misdemeanor theft.
Such conduct is to be expected wherever large pools of money are entrusted to people who are clothed in “qualified immunity.”
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Dum spiro, pugno!