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Trust in supervisors cited in overtime scam

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    Honolulu police officer Michael Krekel is accused of signing off on unjustified claims for overtime payments on behalf of two of his sergeants. Krekel appeared in court yesterday during his trial on charges of tampering with a government record. Prosecutors say Sgts. Duke Zoller and Aaron Bernal claimed the time for working at drunken-driving checkpoints.

A 12-year Honolulu police officer accused of criminally falsifying police reports at DUI checkpoints for the benefit of his supervisors won an award from Mothers Against Drug Driving last year for his work at those checkpoints.

That was one of the points used to try to sway jurors yesterday by an attorney for officer Michael R. Krekel, charged with two counts of tampering with a government record.

The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Prosecutors say that as part of a scheme to collect overtime pay, Krekel signed off on two reports that claimed Sgts. Duke Zoller and Aaron Bernal were at drunken-driving checkpoints on Nov. 28, 2009, and Jan. 15, 2010, respectively.

Zoller, Bernal and Krekel are among seven HPD officers charged in the case. All are part of the Selective Enforcement Unit, which coordinates checkpoints across the island to target motorists driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Krekel has not denied signing the reports, but insists he cannot say for sure whether either man was at the checkpoints, and that he relies on information given to him by his supervisors when filling out paperwork.

Lawyers gave opening statements yesterday morning before Circuit Judge Edward Kubo. Krekel, 43, took the stand on his own behalf late in the afternoon.

Deputy Prosecutor Peter Marrack focused largely on the testimony of both sworn and civilian HPD and other city employees who offered paperwork evidence that Zoller and Bernal were not at the two scenes.

Marrack said Krekel "knowingly and falsely" signed off on the documents.

But Jeffrey Hawk, Krekel’s attorney, said his client merely signed off on documents prepared by his supervisors, men he trusted. Hawk argued that at the dimly lit roadblocks, it was difficult for Krekel to tell for certain who was guiding suspect vehicles his way.

Last week, a jury found another officer, Leighton Kato, not guilty of tampering with a government record and being an accomplice to third-degree theft.

Jury trials for Zoller, Bernal and two other officers are scheduled for later this month before Kubo.

A seventh officer, Brian Morris, pleaded guilty in Honolulu District Court in March to tampering with a government record.

He is awaiting sentencing but is asking the court to grant him a deferral of his guilty plea, which would give him a chance to clear his record.

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