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An 18-year Boynton Beach police veteran has been called a crook. Lt. Richard Root allegedly stole from fellow police officers, and Sept. 11 widows and orphans, records show.

An investigation began in 2005 after he left his post as Fraternal Order of Police president, according to a police report released Thursday. It is expected to close next week when Root answers the allegations, which are serious enough to warrant termination, police said.



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The suspicions started when the incoming president, Lt. Kelly Harris, asked him to produce statements for more than $8,000 in credit card bills, according to the report.

Root didn't produce the bills or all the money raised for Sept. 11.

During the fundraiser a few days after the 2001 terrorist attacks, FOP officers decided to raise money for widows and orphans. Root donated $10,000 on behalf of the FOP but then-Officer Nancy Aspenleiter later confessed that $20,000 was raised, according to the report.

The difference was used to pay excess FOP bills.

The third area of the investigation is a 2002 motorcycle raffle. The winner was never contacted, the bike was returned and the $10,000 raised was used to pay down the mortgage on the lodge, records show.

The State Attorney's Office conducted a criminal investigation that closed in November but refused to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence. Root, 42, has been on paid administrative leave since April 7 and declined to comment on the allegations. Root was required to answer questions from Internal Affairs.

Jill Hanson, Root's Police Benevolent Association lawyer, declined to comment.

Root and Aspenleiter -- who was FOP treasurer and quit January 2005 amid allegations that she had 460 hours of dubious vacation and sick time -- are accused of skimming the funds and using Root's FOP credit card for personal use.

"It was a lot of shoddy bookkeeping, and it's all being squared away," said Maj. Wendy Unger, now a vice president of the 130-member FOP lodge.

Boynton Beach police officers contribute $26 a month to the FOP account to have access to the lodge on Miner Road.

Root used his own credit card to make purchases, many of which are unaccounted for, police said.

"It is clear that Root intended for the FOP to pay the entire balance on the credit card [personal charges as well] until the credit card statements were reviewed by Harris," the report stated.

Harris said something appeared wrong during a routine review of financial records.

"The more we [looked] into the records, that's when we realized we had a criminal investigation on our hands," Harris said.

Root, a night watch commander, was loved by some police officers and disliked by others, who said he was a "bully" and had a "paramilitary" style, officers said.

He was a good cop on paper, according to his last annual review, lauding his leadership skills. Police Chaplain and FOP member Rev. Rick Riccardi said Root's a "cop's cop. If my back were to the wall, I'd want to know that Lt. Root was standing there."

To others, Root oversaw a "dark time" in FOP history.

"It's an unfortunate thing," Harris said. "It took one person to do something wrong and it looks bad on the whole FOP."