Madison police officer Andrew Pullum was arrested and charged in federal court with theft of government property Friday, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and federal officials announced at a Friday press conference.
The 31-year-old is charged with stealing $3,950 in U.S. currency, placed in a car during an undercover operation conducted Thursday evening.
Some months ago, owing to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation, Koval said, police received preliminary word that Pullum may be complicit with planning unlawful acts with convicted felons.
Koval said the MPD immediately made contact with ATF agents and subsequently found there were “some indicia that it may involve some measure of influencing public corruption” and got the Federal Bureau of Investigations involved.
Representatives from the FBI and ATF present Friday applauded the MPD for its willingness to involve the federal authorities from the start of the investigation and for the collaboration between entities.
The FBI set up an investigative operation Thursday evening, with an undercover officer posing as a citizen providing information to the police. The undercover officer told Pullum that there may be cocaine and money in a car parked down the street from the Walmart on Watts Road, according to the complaint. She told him the guys who would pick up drugs would use the keys hidden on the front passenger tire, grab the cocaine out of the trunk and leave the money, according to the complaint.
Pullum went to the parking lot of Elver Park, where the car was located, and allegedly grabbed the key, opened the trunk and took out the duffle bag, which had been placed there by the FBI and contained $3,950 and a tracking device, according to the complaint. Airplane surveillance then observed him put the bag in his car and leave the parking lot, according to the complaint.
Pullum later returned to Elver Park and called for a drug detection canine to assist in a possible search of the undercover car, but the officers did not seize any evidence, according to the complaint. After finishing his shift at 10 p.m., it appeared Pullum was carrying a bag as he left the West District station, according to the complaint.
The GPS tracker indicated he had the bag in his personal car and later dumped it in a trash can at an Ice Age National Scenic Trail Park parking lot, according to the complaint. Pullum later stopped at a residence near McKee Road for about 30 minutes before driving home, according to the complaint, and did not log any money into evidence. When officers recovered the bag from the trash can, it was empty, according to the complaint.
Federal agents arrested Pullum at 2 p.m. Friday when he came to work at the West District Station.
“Nothing in this investigation, no evidence at any time has led us to think that officer Pullum was anything other than a lone bad apple,” said U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil. “I believe the evidence will show that he acted alone in this criminal conduct.”
Koval said Friday he is angry, because it paints not just the MPD but all of law enforcement with distrust.
“Today’s a difficult day for the Madison Police Department," Koval said, "and certainly it also trickles down to what happens and the impressions that are forged about policing and law enforcement in general."
Investigators declined to elaborate on other details of the case, because it is an ongoing investigation.
Pullum has been with the Madison Police Department since 2013 and previously served as an officer in Beloit.
If convicted of the theft charges, Pullum faces up to 10 years in federal prison.