A former York County sheriff’s deputy was stripped of his license to be a police officer this month for handcuffing and threatening to arrest a man for purportedly stealing from the daughter of a retired Portland police officer.

The board of trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy found that Wilfred “Bill” Vachon’s conduct on Sept. 1, 2011, met the definitions of assault, criminal restraint, official oppression and attempted theft by extortion of the owner of a Buxton limousine company. He was one of three officers involved in the incident, but so far, his is the only case that has resulted in a public decision to revoke his license to be an officer.

Official oppression is the statute that governs public corruption, when a public servant knowingly uses the power of their office to commit an unauthorized act that benefits them or someone else.

Days before Vachon and one of the other officers went to the home of the limo company’s owner in 2011, the company had been hired by the daughter of a retired Portland police detective, Joseph Fagone, to provide transportation to and from a concert in Massachusetts, according to a related federal lawsuit, which broadly matches the facts outlined in the board’s decision. The board found that Vachon pressured the company owner to refund an $850 charge after Fagone’s daughter accused the company of stealing cash and belongings and became dissatisfied with her experience.

Most cases of alleged officer misconduct are typically handled more quickly than Vachon’s. But the incident did not come to light publicly until the limo company owner and his wife sued York County and the three officers involved in a 2017 federal civil case that resulted in a monetary settlement out of court. That public disclosure four years ago triggered state and federal criminal investigations, but prosecutors decided not to pursue criminal charges, said David Bobrow, an attorney who represented Vachon during the criminal investigation.

Prosecutors referred the case to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in December 2020, and the board’s decision was finalized July 15, when Vachon declined a hearing on the board’s findings. According to the board, all of the officers involved were referred to the academy for possible action against their licenses. Vachon’s case is the only one in which public records are available.

Jonathan Goodman, the attorney who represented Vachon before the criminal justice academy, says some the board’s findings are incorrect, and lamented that its decision ended a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement. Goodman declined to go into specifics about what he believed the board got wrong, saying his client wanted to move forward with his life. Vachon declined to comment about the decision when he was reached at his home in Berwick this week.

“He thought he was going to do a legitimate police investigation,” Goodman said in an interview Friday. Goodman said Vachon even recorded the entire encounter and turned in the tape, as he would in any other criminal case.

DISGRUNTLED DAUGHTER

The incident began when a police officer for an outside agency called the sergeant in charge of the criminal investigations division at the York County Sheriff’s office about a dispute his daughter was having with a limo company she had hired to take her and some friends to and from a concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. When the group returned to the vehicle after the performance, they discovered cash and personal items were purportedly stolen, according to the board of trustees’ findings.

The outside officer who called the York County sergeant said he suspected the limo company operators were responsible for the theft, and asked the York County sergeant to look into the matter. The York County sergeant, who was Vachon’s supervisor, explained the situation to Vachon and together they made a plan to visit the limo company owners.

According to the board’s decision, the purpose of the visit was to obtain the stolen property and money.

Although the board case does not name the sergeant or the officer who called him, the 2017 lawsuit identifies them as Sgt. Michael P. Hayes of the York County Sheriff’s Office, and Fagone, a longtime Portland police detective who retired in 2010 but soon took another job as an investigator for the Maine Department of Corrections, according to state employment records. The county, in its response to the suit, denied all of the allegations against the officers.

The limousine company owner and his wife are not identified in the lawsuit, and are referred to as John and Jane Doe throughout. The board’s decision also does not identify them by name.

An attorney for Hayes, Amy Fairfield, declined a request for an interview.

Sheriff William King Jr., who was a major at the department at the time of the incident, declined to comment, citing the possibility that Vachon still has about two weeks left to appeal the decision by the board.

Fagone could not be reached, and he did not return a message left with his mother, who hung up on a reporter.

The Maine Department of Corrections, which employed Fagone as a detective until his retirement last month, did not respond to a detailed list of questions about Fagone’s alleged involvement in the situation and whether Fagone was ever investigated. Anna Black, a spokeswoman for the department, cited personnel confidentiality laws.

Fagone was paid $68,745 in wages last year. His total compensation with benefits came to $95,735, according to state records.

LAWSUIT SETTLED

The lawsuit filed by the couple was dismissed in 2019 after they settled out of court. They received $39,575 in compensation, and the county’s insurer, the Maine County Commissioner’s Association Risk Pool – paid attorneys fees of $27,924 while not admitting fault. Following the lawsuit, state prosecutors and agents from the FBI investigated Vachon and the other officers, but they did not press criminal charges, Bobrow said.

The suit also quoted a voicemail left for the limo company owner and his wife about a week after the encounter with the officers, in which the caller identifies himself as Joseph Fagone and makes threats to search the couple’s home and arrest them.

“My daughter was involved in that limousine incident in Gillette Stadium,” the caller said. “I am a detective with criminal investigations for the state of Maine. I’ve been working behind the scenes with Sergeant Hayes. My understanding is that you are playing games with (name omitted) and you’re not willing to pay. That’s fine, but let me tell you, the agreement was that you guys were going to make this right.”

“I am going to get a warrant for you and your husband and I guarantee you I will be out to that house. We negotiated in good faith with you. If you’re playing games, that’s what’s going to happen. I suggest you call her – (name omitted) – and you make this right. If you choose not to do that – the agreement was you were going to pay her back – if you choose not to do that, that’s fine, but the alternative is criminal charges. And you can bet on that. If you want to play games, we will play games. Have a good night.”

All of the officers involved were referred to the criminal justice academy’s board for possible discipline, but Vachon’s case is the only one that has been resolved and is therefore public.

All of the police directly involved have since left the profession. Hayes resigned his position effective March 16; Fagone retired from the Maine Department of Corrections on June 28. And Vachon, who left the York County Sheriff’s Office in 2016 to work at the Berwick Police Department, retired June 17.

‘A MAJOR PROBLEM’

The confrontation and illegal arrest occurred on Sept. 1, 2011, less than a week after the company had provided transportation to and from a Kenny Chesney concert that Aug. 27.

According to the board, Vachon and the sergeant met at a rendezvous point and then drove in an unmarked car to the home of the limo company’s owner, knocked on the door and were invited in. The sergeant told the company owner that there was “a major problem,” according to an excerpt of the conversation quoted in the board decision.

“You guys picked the wrong girl this weekend to kinda screw around with,” the sergeant said, according to the board decision. “That was a 24-year detective’s daughter. And you kinda tucked it up her (expletive). And what I’m here for … listen, listen, ’cause this is going to break bad pretty quick and I don’t want it to. The reason I came here initially was because I want this to be quiet, and I want it to be quiet to a point where we don’t have to take anybody to jail.”

The man then asked if he could call 911.

“I am the police,” the sergeant said, according to the board’s decision.

DON’T DIAL 911

Vachon and the sergeant then told the man that calling 911 after being told not to by a police officer is a crime. The man dialed 911 anyway, but the sergeant forcefully took the man’s phone, and together, the sergeant and Vachon grabbed the man, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest for “misuse of 911,” according to the board case. The sergeant then called the limo driver’s wife, identified himself and told her he needed to speak with her when she got home.

While they waited for her to return, the sergeant berated the limo company owner, told him he was an “idiot,” a “(expletive) moron,” “the (expletive) dumbest guy,” “a nobody,” “a thief,” and “a loser,” among other things, the board found. During this period, Vachon and the sergeant explained that the simple way to remedy the situation was to give the property and money back.

The man remained in handcuffs for over an hour, according to the board’s findings.

Throughout the entire encounter, the limousine company owner and his wife maintained that they did not steal money or property, and Vachon and the sergeant did not file charges or write any summonses, and no one was ultimately taken to jail over the alleged thefts.

Under state law, someone is deemed to have misused 911 if they are told not to do so by a law enforcement official and they make either repeated non-emergency reports to 911; causes an emergency 911 response by unnecessarily activating an alarm that automatically sends police; or has previously caused an automatic false alarm before.

Goodman said that when Vachon assisted Hayes in cuffing the limousine owner, Vachon believed he was acting lawfully, enforcing a statute that prohibits the misuse of emergency services, and that Vachon believed the purpose of the interview that day was in pursuit of a legitimate criminal theft case. Goodman said his client’s understanding of the 911 statute was incorrect.

“He thought he was going to do a legitimate police investigation,” Goodman said. “Once things got out of hand, (with) the confrontation over the 911 issue, it went to a place that I think Bill wishes it didn’t, and I think he wishes he could undo it but he can’t.”

Goodman said Vachon believed he was simply assisting his sergeant to conduct a theft investigation interview.

“(Vachon) goes out with them and very quickly into it, it evolves into something completely different and I think Bill was in this position of feeling like, ‘Oh geez. What’s going on here and how do we make it better?”’ Goodman said.

Goodman said Vachon was the one who uncuffed the limo company owner.


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