A former police chief in Bridgeport, Conn., and another former top city official pleaded guilty on Monday to rigging the hiring process to ensure that the chief got his job in 2018.
The former chief, Armando J. Perez, and David Dunn, a former acting personnel director, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and giving false statements to federal investigators, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.
Mr. Perez and Mr. Dunn admitted to a scheme that involved stealing confidential test questions, having two officers complete the written portion of Mr. Perez’s exams and lying to federal investigators about their actions, prosecutors said.
Each faces up to two years in prison and agreed to pay more than $149,000 in restitution to the city as part of a plea deal approved by Judge Kari Dooley of United States District Court in Bridgeport. Mr. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, and Mr. Dunn on Jan. 11.
“Today’s pleas are a significant step in ensuring that Bridgeport’s citizens and police officers have leaders with integrity who are committed to enforcing, not breaking, the law,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the statement. The case was handled by Ms. Strauss’s office after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut recused itself from the case.
Mr. Perez’s lawyer, Robert Frost Jr., said in an email that his client had “devoted his life” to the City of Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Police Department. He added that to achieve his “ultimate goal” of becoming permanent police chief, he accepted “help from others during the process that was not appropriate.”
“Today, he has acknowledged that his actions were wrong and he knew them to be wrong at the time,” he said. “By pleading guilty, A.J. has accepted responsibility for his conduct, and he has agreed to pay full restitution to the city in order to set things right.”
According to The Associated Press, Mr. Perez spoke to reporters after his court appearance in United States District Court in Bridgeport. “I apologized to the good people, people that I served with pride and I gave 37 years of my life to them,” he said. “I am so sorry. I apologize. We’re going to move on, and we’re going to make this city the best city in the state of Connecticut.”
Frederick D. Paoletti, who represents Mr. Dunn, said in a phone interview, “Today Mr. Dunn unequivocally accepted full responsibility for his conduct.”
Mr. Perez was acting police chief of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, in 2018 when he and Mr. Dunn conspired to rig the independent search process for a new chief to ensure that Mr. Perez was among the top three candidates for the job, from which the mayor would choose, according to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Dunn stole and provided confidential examination questions and the scoring guide to Mr. Perez, who then had two police officers take the written portion of the exam for him, prosecutors said.
Mr. Dunn also told a hired independent consultant to eliminate scoring penalties for candidates who did not have a bachelor’s degree, criteria only Mr. Perez did not fulfill, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Dunn then tried to influence the panel responsible for narrowing the field of applicants in the last stage of the exam, telling one member that Mayor Joseph P. Ganim wanted Mr. Perez to be part of the final three, prosecutors said.
Mr. Ganim has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. His office did not immediately return emails seeking comment on Monday.
In a video posted to Twitter shortly after Mr. Perez and Mr. Dunn were charged last month, Mr. Ganim expressed feelings of “disappointment” and “uncertainty,” and named Rebeca Garcia acting chief of the Bridgeport Police Department.
Mr. Ganim faced his own corruption charges during his first stint as mayor. He resigned in 2003 and served seven years in prison before being re-elected in 2015.