After 35 years in law enforcement, former Bridgeport Police Chief Armando "AJ" Perez jumped "into full on criminal behavior" when he rigged the civil service exam necessary for his appointment, federal Judge Kari Dooley said.
Perez pleaded guilty to a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making false statements after his arrest last year.
He worked with Bridgeport's former acting personnel director, David Dunn, who also pleaded guilty, to rig the police chief exam so he would get the job.
In court, Perez apologized for his actions, took responsibility, and said he betrayed himself.
"I accept responsibility and I'm so sorry," Perez said. "I panicked. I want to apologize to the good people of Bridgeport that I served."
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Prosecutors argued Perez deserved "a meaningful term of imprisonment," though the defense asked for probation.
The judge rejected that call, saying that while she had "no reason to question Perez's remorse or sincerity," some prison time was necessary.
"You ended your career in law enforcement as a convicted felon," Judge Dooley said. "You betrayed your oath and every member of the department who took the same oath."
The sentence was aligned with the defense suggestion of leniency. The former chief had faced up to 10 years in prison, but his attorney argued Perez had suffered enough through restitution and embarrassment.
"We have not actually requested a sentence of straight probation but it would be more than enough for Mr. Perez," defense attorney Robert Frost said. "He is already a walking, living breathing cautionary tale of what not to do."
Prosecutors had asked for prison time, saying it was a necessary deterrent for other public officials who might seek to cheat on civil service exams.
"This is the largest city in Connecticut," assistant US Attorney Jonathan Francis said. "This is the chief law enforcement officer, and this is a case where how Your Honor sentences him will be seen by others to send a message to communicate what they can expect."
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Prosecutors said the city "was deceived into ranking Perez among the three examination finalists and ultimately awarding him a five-year contract as the permanent chief" after he and his co-defendant used Bridgeport police officers to prepare Perez's exam materials, stole confidential exam questions, and tailored the scoring to favor Perez.
"Compounding these crimes, when Perez became aware that the FBI was looking into his conduct, he sought to obstruct the investigation by influencing potential witnesses and knowingly making false statements to investigators," federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.
Defense attorneys called Perez a "humbled man" as they sought leniency.
"He has been shamed and vilified both locally and nationally, confronting multiple lawsuits that threaten the financial security of his family, including one brought by the Connecticut Attorney General to reduce and/or revoke his municipal pension, a particularly harsh consequence given that said pension was earned and vested in its entirety prior to the instant offenses," defense attorneys wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
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