Federal agents arrested six Philadelphia Police narcotics officers as part of an ongoing corruption probe and accused the group of swiping more than half a million dollars' worth of money, drugs and other items over a period of years.
“Unfortunately, a very small percentage of police officers continue to toss their oath aside and act like the very criminals they have sworn to bring to justice,” said U.S Attorney Zane David Memeger.
The U.S. Attorney's Office unsealed the 26-count indictment Wednesday of the two-year joint investigation between the police department, FBI and U.S. Attorney's office. The officers, who have served anywhere from five to 13 years in the narcotics unit, face allegations of multiple acts of robbery, extortion, kidnapping and drug dealing from February 2006 to November 2012.
The officers under arrest are Perry Betts, 46; Thomas Liciardello, 38; Linwood Norman, 46; Brian Reynolds, 43; John Speiser, 42; and Michael Spicer, 46. The officers were taken into custody without incident early Wednesday morning. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that each officer will be suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss.
"Conduct like this is simply unacceptable, cannot be tolerated and is inexcusable," said Ramsey who noted the shame these allegations bring the officers and entire department.
Prosecutors say that the defendants would routinely rob the occupants of suspected dealers' cars or homes.
"The defendants used their positions of authority to target suspected drug dealers for purposes of stealing cash, personal property and drugs," said Memeger.
The indictment details about 22 separate incidents where the officers broke the law. In total, prosecutors estimate the officers took more than $500,000 worth of cash, drugs and goods including fancy watches.
Some of the incidents outlined in the indictment includes one where Liciardello, Reynolds and Walker allegedly took $30,000 from an illegally detained suspect then took another $80,000 from the suspect’s home; an incident where Norman allegedly held a man over an 18-story balcony; an incident where Spicer allegedly dangled a man off a 35th-floor balcony in an attempt to swipe $79,000 and a designer suit; and an incident where Norman and Walker allegedly stole and distributed multi-kilogram quantity of cocaine.
Other incidents weren't as violent.
"They literally filed false police reports," Memeger said.
The allegations include declaring they collected less money than they would report.
Ramsey said that the officers tarnished their badges and that the badge numbers will be destroyed.
"I have been a police officer for more than 40 years and this is one of the worst cases of corruption that I have ever heard," Ramsey said.
Sources say agents were led to the officers after they nabbed former narcotics unit veteran Jeffrey Walker in a sting last May.
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In that sting, authorities said Walker, while in uniform, planted cocaine in an alleged drug dealer's car, pulled over the man and stole his house keys. He then went to the man's home and stole $15,000, officials said.
Following that investigation, Walker was arrested and six other narcotics officers were pulled from the street. They were eventually moved into different roles in the department as the investigation continued.
Walker pleaded guilty to federal robbery charges and weapons offenses in February.
Memeger wouldn't divulge how much Walker helped in the investigation against his fellow former officers.
The probe has resulted in the overturning of more than 80 drug convictions and the dismissal of hundreds of open cases.
Ramsey said in no way are all narcotic officers dirty but he said the investigation continues into other alleged acts of corruption.
"It was a malignancy that's there and if you don't cut it out it won't go away on its own," said Ramsey.
The indicted officers, who have all pleaded not guilty, will each pay for their own defense.