I-Team: Pawtucket police officer charged with stealing gasoline

NBC 10 File: Officer Kenneth Provost

A veteran Pawtucket police officer is accused of stealing gasoline from the city.

Officer Ken Provost, who patrolled the streets of Pawtucket for 30 years, surrendered at state police headquarters Wednesday and was charged with stealing about $700 worth of gasoline from city pumps.

Provost's arrest followed an NBC 10 I-Team investigation that revealed strange patterns at city gas pumps.

"It's obviously very distressing when someone who's given that responsibility, who takes an oath of obeying the Constitution and following the ordinances of the city of Pawtucket, breaks that trust," said Public Safety Commissioner Antonio Pires.

Pires said police started investigating after a city employee noticed suspicious behavior at the pumps. When detectives reviewed surveillance video, they realized they were looking at Provost caught on tape.

The city asked state police to take over.

"He put it in a personal car. He put it in a gas can," state police Maj. Todd Catlow said. "He would actually enter the same vehicle number every time."

Catlow said Provost's arrest is based on gas transactions in 2013. But records obtained by the I-Team reveal a strange pattern going back at least three years.

The records show Provost often filled up a 2005 Ford Expedition before and after his shift, just like other officers on patrol.

The I-Team found he also appeared to have gassed up as many as three times in the same shift, entering the same vehicle number each time. But he pumped more gas than the Expedition can burn during the time period recorded.

The city's surveillance video only goes back about 90 days.

"The charges stem from what we could prove, what we have probable cause to prove," Catlow said.

However, there's another part of the story just coming to light.

Provost is a licensed car dealer in Massachusetts who bought and sold police vehicles for the city for at least 10 years before his arrest.

Records obtained by NBC 10 revealed he bought six cars for the police department in the past three years alone -- more than $100,000 worth of vehicles, including undercover cars and cars driven by his superiors.

None of the vehicles was put out for bid, which is required for purchases of more than $5,000.

The city said the unusual arrangement saved the city money on dealer fees and that Provost didn't profit from buying the cars.

The I-Team asked Pires if that was an ethical arrangement.

"It's certainly worth a second look at it," Pires said.

Provost has said he's cooperating fully with the gasoline investigation, but declined to comment further on Thursday.

Pires said city leaders won't just prosecute Provost for the misdemeanor. They'll also move to have him fired.

"That's what our charge is, to protect the best interest of the public. I think that they would want us to proceed aggressively and appropriately," Pires said.

Before he could be fired, Provost has the right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. He would have a chance to present his side of the case and fight for his job.

Provost is on paid administrative leave.