Cleveland firefighters accused of selling shifts

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Thirteen Cleveland firefighters indicted for theft in office are accused of improperly paying co-workers to cover their assigned shifts while they continued to receive salaries and benefits, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced Wednesday.

An audit and a special investigation determined the firefighters each failed to work 2,000 hours or more of their scheduled time between 2006 to 2010, McGinty said. One firefighter is accused of failing to work more than 8,000 hours, or more than four years' worth of compensated time.

McGinty said the firefighters abused a system that allows limited shift-trading under certain conditions.

"A firefighter cannot hire out his job or sell shifts as these defendants did," McGinty said in a statement. "These firefighters disregarded the rules by paying someone else tax-free cash under the table to do their work for them while they accumulated all the job benefits as if they had worked that year themselves."

Each of the 13 firefighters was indicted for one felony count of theft in office and one misdemeanor count of soliciting or receiving improper compensation.

A brief statement from the local firefighters' union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 93, didn't directly address the charges.

"We have been and will continue to represent our members in all matters related to the terms and conditions of their employment," it said.

The investigation is ongoing, according to the prosecutor's office.