Bethany officer indicted on theft, other charges

A Bethany Beach police officer has been indicted by a Sussex County grand jury on 51 charges related to alleged falsification of paid overtime and medical reimbursement vouchers worth approximately $3,100. Patrolman Robert Talbot, 29, turned himself in to Sussex County Capital Police on March 13 and was released on $5,100 secured bond. He is now scheduled to appear in Superior Court.

Talbot, a 2.5-year veteran of the Bethany department who had previously worked there for several summers as a seasonal officer, has been on administrative leave from the department since the BBPD first began its internal investigation in September 2007.

He now stands charged with more than four dozen criminal counts, involving forgery, Official Misconduct, Attempted Theft by False Pretense, Theft by False Pretense and Filing of False Instruments.

BBPD Capt. Ralph Mitchell told the Coastal Point that the suspicion of misdeeds had arisen within the department last September and that the BBPD had begun its own internal investigation at that time, placing Talbot on leave. The department enlisted the aid of the Delaware Attorney General's office, and the two agencies completed independent investigations leading to the charges upon which Talbot was indicted Monday, March 10.

Mitchell said the investigations had arisen when some within the department had noticed "discrepancies."

"We started looking into it and it just started snowballing," he said.

Mitchell said the issues with overtime were related to hours of overtime that Talbot had allegedly filed for but not worked. The charges related to the medical reimbursement, he said, involved breaches in the guidelines under which officers receive a yearly allottment of reimbursement. He declined to elaborate further on the nature of the investigations' findings or the charges, citing the pending case.

Talbot was known widely to have had a life goal of becoming a police officer and to have ambitions to become a state trooper. Mitchell called the allegations against the officer "surprising" in that light.

Mitchell said the town had not yet moved to pursue recovery of the funds Talbot is alleged to have inappropriately acquired. He said their current focus was on the criminal case.