A former Suffolk County police detective sergeant pleaded guilty Tuesday to falsifying records in what the state comptroller and Nassau prosecutors said was a scheme that allowed him to illegally collect nearly half a million dollars in pension funds.
Terrance Hoffman, 65, of Shirley, pleaded guilty to permitting falsification of records of the retirement system, a D felony, in Nassau District Court and he is due back in court Sept. 10 for sentencing.
Authorities said he collected $465,647 in illegal pension payments from the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System after he retired from the police department and took another job with Nassau Community College without notifying the state comptroller of his return to public employment. In that new job, he earned more than the limit that retirees who re-enter the public employment system may earn without a waiver.
Officials said that limit is now $30,000, while Hoffman was earning $112,000 as a professor at NCC. Because his earnings exceeded the limit, he was required to obtain a waiver, said his attorney, Thomas Spreer of Babylon. He collected the pension funds from 1996 through 2012, officials said.
"This is an egregious exploitation of public funds," state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a joint news release with Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. "By partnering with District Attorney Rice's office, we were able to protect the integrity of the state pension fund, recoup the stolen money, and send a clear warning to those who try to defraud the system."
Rice said: "Our public retirement programs are a critical part of our safety net for retirees and their families -- not a piggy bank for those looking to game the system while drawing a higher salary than the law allows."
Spreer said Hoffman was a respected police officer who traded the nuts and bolts of police work for the academic world, where he became a beloved educator.
"He's devastated," Spreer said of Hoffman. "He had a distinguished career with the Suffolk County Police Department and retired as detective sergeant out of the robbery squad and he had a passion for the academic end of policing."
Hoffman returns to court Sept. 10 for sentencing, but Spreer said he must pay back the pension funds as part of his sentence.