A 47-year-old New York police officer who was assigned to help at-risk youth has been accused of abusing “the power of his badge” to hide a relationship with a homeless teenager he met on the job, prosecutors say.
Port Authority Bus Terminal officer Telly Simmonds is charged with falsifying documents to conceal “inappropriate” meetings with the young woman who he met while working in the Youth Services Unit in 2018.
Prosecutors allege Mr Simmonds using a Port Authority voucher meant for work-related duty to pay for a hotel with the 19-year-old woman in Times Square in April 2018.
“Taking advantage of a young, at-risk woman seeking help is one of the most despicable things an officer of the law can do,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.
“No one should be taken advantage of by the very individuals who are charged with protecting them.”
The police officer appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday where he pleaded not guilty to felony charges of tampering with public records, offering a false instrument for filing and four misconduct misdemeanour charges.
Prosecutors say Mr Simmonds met the runaway teenager in March 2018 when she was brought to the Port Authority’s youth services office, and took down her personal details and contact information.
They began texting regularly and on 1 April he paid for them to stay at a hotel using a Port Authority voucher, which are for use by officers for work-related duty only.
After the young woman moved from the shelter where she was living to Philadelphia, Mr Simmonds allegedly tried to convince her to return to New York.
They say he drove to a shelter in Philadelphia to pick up her up and bring her to a shelter in the Bronx, using his Port Authority Police ID to claim he was on official duty.
He is accused of filing a police report falsely stating that he met the teenager at the Midtown Bus Terminal on 18 April 2018 and making “additional false entries” on Port Authority reports.
“After Simmonds took her from Philadelphia, the Philadelphia facility contacted the FBI, who then contacted the Port Authority,” according to a release from the Attorney General’s office.
The Port Authority launched an investigation and referred the matter to the Attorney General’s office.
Port Authority Inspector General John Gay said Simmonds was removed from active duty since the start of the investigation and would “now be held accountable in criminal court for his actions”.