Former New Bedford officer agrees to plead guilty to stealing nearly $50K in union funds

SE Mass

This story has been updated to clarify that Officer Fernandes has agreed to plead guilty.

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A former New Bedford officer has agreed to plead guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the city’s police union while serving as its treasurer, according to acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell.

Joshua Fernandes, 42, of New Bedford, was the union’s treasurer for nearly a decade. Court documents reveal Fernandes was suspected of embezzling nearly $50,000 during the last three years of his tenure.

Mendell said Fernandes used the money to pay for personal expenses including vacations, family outings and a monthly wireless phone plan.

Fernandes, according to Mendell, carried out the scheme by reimbursing his personal credit card accounts with union funds. He also used the union’s credit cards to pay directly for non-union expenses.

This is not the first time Fernandes has been on the wrong side of the law. In 2019, a judge ordered him to undergo mental health treatment after he was accused of stealing and damaging his ex-wife’s minivan.

In a statement, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell called Fernandes’ actions “troubling on many levels.”

“He violated the public’s trust as someone who broke laws he was responsible for upholding, and he violated the trust his fellow officers placed in him to safeguard their hard-earned union funds,” Mitchell said.

A change of plea hearing has not yet been scheduled. Fernandes faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

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