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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cop Arrested in Drug Sting

City police officer arrested in drug sting
The Baltimore Sun by Justin Fenton - September 4, 2009

A Baltimore police officer was arrested for shaking down an undercover internal affairs officer posing as a drug dealer, the department said. Michael Sylvester, 29, was arrested Thursday morning after he stole $70 from the undercover officer in the 3900 block of Carlisle Ave. in Northwest Baltimore as part of what the department refers to as an integrity test, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman. Guglielmi also said police recovered three small bags containing suspected cocaine in Sylvester's locker at the Northwest District police station. Sylvester, a four-year veteran, had been recently transferred from the Central District's Pennsylvania Avenue task force after police received numerous complaints that he was stealing cash from suspected drug dealers, Guglielmi said. The area is regarded as one of the largest drug marketplaces on the East Coast. Sylvester had not been charged as of Thursday afternoon, but Guglielmi said he was expected to be charged with theft and drug possession. Guglielmi said rooting out corrupt officers is a top priority of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. Earlier this decade, such integrity stings were hailed by city leaders and the police commissioner as an effective way to stop and prevent corruption. But some criticized the effort after not a single officer was caught stealing drugs, money or other items planted by internal affairs in more than 100 tests over a three-year period from 2000 to 2003. Union officials and outside experts questioned at the time whether the stings were an effective use of resources. In August 2008, city Officer Jerome K. Hill was acquitted on charges of assault stemming from an incident in which he punched an undercover internal affairs detective during an integrity test in January 2008. Circuit Judge John C. Themelis said he could not second-guess the instincts of the officer and that he might have had good reason to act aggressively.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

NJ Prison Guard Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Drugs to Inmate

N.J. corrections officer pleads guilty to smuggling drugs to inmate
New by Chris Megerian - August 31, 2009

TRENTON, NJ -- A corrections officer pleaded guilty today to smuggling cocaine and a syringe to an inmate in Southern State Correctional Facility. Roy Solomon, 33, of Lower Township in Cape May County admitted to official misconduct, which could land him in prison for five years. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13. Neither the Department of Corrections nor the Division of Criminal Justice would identify the inmate Solomon smuggled the contraband for last year. Peter Aseltine, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, said the inmate has not been charged. He would not comment on how the drugs or syringe were brought into the prison, saying the investigation is ongoing. Solomon started working at Southern State in March 2001 and has been suspended without pay since April 2009. The prison, which holds about 2,000 inmates in dormitory-style housing, is a medium-security prison located in Delmont in Cumberland County. Corrections spokeswoman Danielle Hunter declined to comment on the investigation. Last year the department fired 78 officers for infractions including possessing drugs and failing drug tests, as well as for simply not showing up to work, according to records and officials.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prison Guard Arrested with Pot in her Bra

Ark. prison guard arrested after state police say marijuana found in bra
By The Associated Press - August 29, 2009

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Bond has been set at $5,000 for a prison guard at the Maximum Security Unit near Pine Bluff after authorities say marijuana was found in her bra as she reported for work. A judge on Friday ruled there was probable cause to charge 26-year-old Michelle Anderson of Pine Bluff with possession of drugs with intent to deliver and possession of a weapon on prison property. According to a state police affidavit, Anderson was arrested Wednesday after another corrections officer conducting a body search found more than an ounce of marijuana in her bra. Deputy prosecutor Nicole Pugh Anderson says corrections officers searched Anderson's vehicle in the parking lot of the prison and found a handgun.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Former Cop Admits Corruption

Fmr cop admits guilt in corruption case
Maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, $250K fine
WOOD-TV8 - September 9, 2009

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. - A former Benton Harbor police officer has pleaded guilty in connection with a corruption investigation with his past employer. Bernard Hall Jr., 33, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Benton Harbor residents, according to the Department of Justice. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Hall was taken into custody July 17. He was head of the narcotics unit with the Benton Harbor Police Department at the time of the alleged incidents. He was the supervisor of other officers in the unit, including former officer Andrew Thomas Collins. Collins is also allegedly connected to this case. He is currently serving time in federal prison for a felony drug conviction on January 26. At that time, Collins admitted he abused his position of trust as a BHPD officer, in that on more than one occasion he failed to report and submit to the department all narcotics he seized in the course of his duties and instead retained possession of the drugs for his own use. Collins also admitted he reported false and fictitious controlled substances to the department for the purpose of improperly securing search warrants and to embezzle funds from the department. Count one of the indictment alleges Hall and Collins falsified search warrant affidavits, obtained search warrants without probable cause, embezzled funds from BHPD, filed false police reports and unlawfully seized and misappropriated people's money and personal property for their own personal use. The FBI office in St. Joseph, Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office and Benton Harbor Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian K. Delaney is prosecuting the case.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Police Officer Admits Corruption

Ex-Benton Harbor police officer admits corruption
The Associated Press - September 9, 2009

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A former Benton Harbor police officer has admitted falsifying search-warrant affidavits, embezzling police funds and illegally seizing suspects' money and property. Bernard Hall Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids to conspiracy to violate civil rights, which carries up to 10 years in federal prison. The former head of the Benton Harbor Police Department's narcotics unit admitted in a plea agreement that he and another officer engaged in "a pervasive pattern of police corruption." Andrew Collins already has been sentenced to 37 months in prison. WSBT-TV reports some drug cases handled by the officers have been dismissed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ex-Immigration Agent Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine

Ex-immigration agent accused of cocaine smuggling
The Associated Press - September 4, 2009

A former high-ranking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was stationed in Mexico before retiring in 2007 was arrested Friday on suspicion of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. Richard Padilla Cramer was arrested at his home in Green Valley, Ariz., 25 miles south of Tucson, and appeared before a federal judge, who denied bail. No one answered the phone at Cramer's home Friday and it was unclear whether he had a lawyer. The charges stem from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation dating back to 2006. Authorities say Cramer helped a large-scale drug trafficking organization move cocaine into the United States, according to a criminal complaint made public Friday. The complaint says that Cramer provided members of a drug smuggling organization with information from confidential law enforcement databases that told them whether one of their members was a government informant. The complaint also says Cramer and the smuggling organization invested about $400,000 in a 660-pound shipment of cocaine. The cocaine was shipped from Panama and went through the U.S. en route to Spain, where it was seized in June 2007. An informant told DEA agents that Cramer had "very powerful friends" among DEA agents in Mexico and a strong relationship with one particular member of the smuggling organization, according to the complaint.

The complaint also says that during an August 2007 meeting, a member of the smuggling organization convinced Cramer to retire from ICE and begin working directly for the organization in drug smuggling and money laundering. The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, where federal prosecutors say the majority of the acts occurred. Authorities say Cramer will be extradited to Florida. Cramer was the former resident agent in charge of the ICE office in Nogales in southern Arizona, according to agency spokesman Vincent Picard, who did not know how long Cramer worked there or how many agents he oversaw. "It's a criminal complaint, not a conviction," Picard said. An Associated Press investigation recently found that U.S. law officers who work the border are being charged with criminal corruption in numbers not seen before, as drug and immigrant smugglers use money and sometimes sex to buy protection, and internal investigators crack down. Based on Freedom of Information Act requests, interviews with sentenced agents and a review of court records, the AP tallied corruption-related convictions against more than 80 enforcement officials at all levels - federal, state and local - since 2007 It's unclear if any of them ranked as high as Cramer, and Picard said his agency did not have that information.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Top Cop Sanitized Report for Politician

No state cops' rogue unit: report
The New York Daily News by Kenneth Lovett and Glenn Blain - September 7, 2009

ALBANY, NY - A long-awaited report by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo shot down charges that a rogue unit operated within the state police conducting political dirty tricks for two ex-governors, sources said last night. While no charges are expected, the report, which is likely to be sent to Gov. Paterson as early as tomorrow, is critical of former law enforcement officials. Ex-state police Col. Daniel Wiese, who headed security for former Gov. George Pataki and had a close relationship with disgraced ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, takes a beating. "It's going to be harsh on Dan Wiese, but there is nothing to substantiate any rogue unit ...," said a source. "There was no ... political espionage." Paterson requested the probe a year ago after hearing reports from more than 10 lawmakers that they might have been targeted by rogue cops. The report found that Wiese had inappropriate influence and often spoke with Rod Covington, who retired last year as head of the state police's executive services detail, sources said. The report also found that former state police Superintendent Wayne Bennett sanitized a domestic violence report on former upstate Republican Rep. John Sweeney during his unsuccessful 2006 reelection campaign.

Feds Focus on New Orleans Cops

Federal probe digs deeper into NOPD's actions after Hurricane Katrina
The Times Picayune by Brendan McCarthy and Laura Maggi - September 5, 2009

For the past several months, the federal building on Poydras Street has seen a steady stream of New Orleans police officers trudge in and out, all of them testifying before grand jurors gathering evidence of possible civil rights violations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- allegations that center on police misbehavior. Alex Brandon / The Times-Picayune archivePolice handcuff a man Sept. 4, 2005, after a confrontation with police on Chef Menteur Highway near the Danziger Bridge. It is one of the incidents involving New Orleans police that is being investigated by federal agents. Federal agents, meanwhile, have been studying police e-mails and documents obtained by subpoena -- as well as through a surprise search warrant executed on the New Orleans Police Department homicide office -- in an attempt to ferret out exactly what happened in the chaotic days after the storm. The feds also have sent subpoenas seeking photographs to The Times-Picayune, and they have ordered a former photographer for the paper to testify before the grand jury. Observers and authorities say the investigations, and the charges they are likely to result in, could shake the very foundation of the New Orleans Police Department in ways that haven't been seen since the Len Davis murder-for-hire case in the mid-1990s. Davis, who essentially ran a drug-protection racket comprised of fellow NOPD officers, was sentenced to death for ordering the execution of a woman who filed a complaint against him. But the reverberations from the new cases could extend well beyond the department. The cases are likely to get international publicity and heighten already-deep mistrust of the Police Department. And, as did other notorious Katrina cases -- such as allegations of euthanasia at Memorial Medical Center and of gross neglect at St. Rita's nursing home -- the cases will force New Orleanians to confront an uncomfortable and perhaps unanswerable question: How accountable should people be for the actions they take in desperate times?

Led by prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division and conducted by FBI agents, the simultaneous federal investigations are focused on two separate police actions -- one on the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans and the other in Algiers. Federal authorities are also exploring allegations of vigilante violence by civilians in Algiers Point. The Danziger incident is well-known to New Orleanians: Police, responding to reports of shots fired at officers, shot six people on the bridge, killing two men and wounding four others. Alex Brandon / The Times-Picayune archiveLance Madison is arrested by State Police and NOPD SWAT members on Sept. 4, 2005, after a confrontation with police near the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans. Ronald Madison, Lance Madison's brother, was shot to death that day. A state grand jury in late 2006 indicted seven police officers on murder and attempted murder charges, but a Criminal District Court judge last year dismissed the charges, concluding that prosecutor errors tainted the case. Federal authorities then agreed to pick up the case. The Algiers investigation is more recent and less publicly known. Though four years have passed since Katrina, the probe began only this year, after published accounts described a potential police role in the burning of a corpse that was eventually pulled from a charred car on a West Bank levee. That probe focuses on whether NOPD officers just days after Katrina played a role in shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover, beating him and his buddies, then later torching the vehicle where his body was discovered, sources close to the case have said. It is not clear whether the officers believed to be involved in the shooting and those who allegedly set fire to the car knew about each others' roles, sources have said.

The scope of the feds' inquiry -- and the expectation that the effort will bring results -- has led many observers to recall the mid-to-late-1990s, when FBI agents were actually stationed within the Public Integrity Bureau. That relationship resulted in some shocking prosecutions, among them the arrest and conviction of two police officer brothers who were part of drug kingpin Richard Pena's distribution operation. NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the probes in detail. "The NOPD has cooperated with the U.S. attorney and the FBI and will continue to do so throughout their investigations, " said Bob Young, head of the department's public affairs division. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said even without knowing what the results of the post-Katrina investigations will be, they must be considered to be serious, based on the resources the federal government has committed. "These investigations, should they result in any criminal charges, would be at least as significant and notorious and damning as the Len Davis case, " he said. Authorities, speaking on background, have given similar assessments. Each of the cases involve police officers possibly committing some wrongdoing while acting in their official capacities. Each also could result in charges related to civil rights violations, Goyeneche said. Obstruction of justice charges are also possible. "If they do result in indictments, I think there will be an international media feeding frenzy, " Goyeneche said.

Facing a deadline

The federal investigation into Danziger began last fall, and the Algiers probe was launched a few months later. It's unclear when the feds hope to wrap things up. But most of the relevant federal laws have statutes of limitations of five years, meaning any charges must be brought by next September. Since the probe got under way, agents from the FBI New Orleans office's civil rights division have been applying steadily increasing pressure on local police. Agents, along with prosecutors, have woken up officers at home. They have issued several subpoenas for a wide array of documents, including all Blackberry communications for officers in several police districts and in specialized units, sources said.

Federal prosecutors have also demanded that the NOPD preserve all such communications during an 11-month period starting in September 2005. Perhaps most dramatically, agents conducted a raid on the NOPD's homicide division in early August, showing up unannounced and executing a search warrant on the computers and files of two veteran homicide detectives -- both supervisors -- who had handled NOPD investigations of the Danziger and Algiers incidents. Though at least one member of the NOPD's internal investigative unit -- the Public Integrity Bureau -- accompanied the agents in the homicide office, detectives were caught unaware of the seizure. It was by no means a friendly visit, sources said. The probe has created a gnawing sense of anxiety within the department. Privately, officers have groused that the feds are using strong-arm tactics, not offering professional courtesy usually extended to fellow law enforcement agencies. In one incident that's become legend, the 2nd District commander argued with and nearly barred agents earlier this summer from entering his station house. Federal agents, along with at least one prosecutor, showed up at the Uptown station to interview a police officer. They were met by Maj. Bruce Little, who took umbrage with their presence, several sources said. Eventually cooler heads prevailed and the interview was conducted at a later time, though the incident did little to smooth relations. Officers have long been suspicious of the prying eyes of the feds. The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in New Orleans, sent an e-mail message to all of its members in late May reminding officers of their right to consult an attorney before submitting to an interview. The message recommended taking advantage of that right, regardless of whether the officer was being questioned as a target or witness.

Change in course

While the Algiers and Danziger cases are the focus of the probe, the federal examination of the department has not stopped there. For example, federal agents earlier this year began looking into the police shooting of 22-year-old Adolph Grimes in the 6th Ward on New Year's Day. The recent focus on possible civil rights abuses by New Orleans police seems to represent a new course for a Justice Department that was focused on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We've gone a very long time with a Justice Department that had very little interest, if any, in either investigating or prosecuting corrupt or brutal police officers, " said Mary Howell, a veteran civil rights attorney and longtime NOPD critic who is also representing a family suing the department over the Danziger Bridge incident. Since the investigations are largely focused on incidents that occurred four years ago, Howell said it remains unclear whether federal investigators are planning to delve into more current wrongdoing in the department. Federal authorities, meanwhile, say privately that the probes are more a function of new evidence than a policy shift at the Department of Justice. Until an article about the Henry Glover shooting appeared late last year in The Nation, they said, they were unaware of the incident.

Focusing on rights

In both the Danziger and Algiers cases, federal investigators are focused on whether police violated citizens' civil rights, which is a federal offense. On Sept. 4, 2005, police acknowledge shooting two groups of people, killing two men and injuring four others. While the victims have said they were ambushed by the police, the officers have said they responded to reports of shootings and used their weapons only after first taking fire. Details of the Algiers incident are murkier, but sources close to the investigation have said the grand jury is trying to determine whether an officer or officers shot Glover, as well as if other cops are responsible for burning his body. Photo courtesy of Rolanda ShortHenry Glover with his daughter, Nehemiah Short, sometime before September 2005. Glover's charred remains were pulled out of a car weeks after the storm. After he was shot on Sept. 2, a man named William Tanner picked him up, along with Glover's brother, Edward King, and a friend, Bernard Calloway. Tanner, who had been talking to a woman near where Glover was shot, drove the injured man to the Paul B. Habans Elementary School, where the Police Department's SWAT team had set up a temporary headquarters. At the school, Tanner said, police officers did not help them. Instead, he said, they were abusive to the three men trying to help Glover, while leaving the injured man bleeding in the car. Eventually, one of the officers drove off in Tanner's Chevy Malibu, with Glover still inside. Tanner didn't see his car for weeks, until a federal agent told him that the burned remains were left on the Algiers levee, near the 4th District police station. The remains were retrieved by the 82nd Airborne, according to the Orleans Parish coroner's office.

Along with the subpoenas they've sent to New Orleans police, federal investigators looking into the case have subpoenaed The Times-Picayune, asking for photos taken by Alex Brandon, who was one of dozens of Times-Picayune photographers and reporters covering the chaos after Hurricane Katrina. Brandon has also received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury investigating Glover's death. Brandon was at Habans on Sept. 2, the day Glover was shot. Lori Mince, an attorney for the newspaper, said prosecutors have asked for any pictures he took at the school on that day. Mince said photographers' images normally are archived at the newspaper's office in New Orleans. But in the aftermath of Katrina, the newspaper was displaced. After the newspaper resumed normal operations, it collected the images its photographers shot and archived them. She said the newspaper does not have any photos taken by Brandon at Habans that show Glover or Tanner or the Malibu. Brandon, who spent several days after the storm photographing law enforcement officers as they tried to keep order in the city, was also at the Danziger scene shortly after the shootings there. Federal authorities have also subpoenaed the newspaper's photographs of that scene. Reached by telephone, Brandon, who left the newspaper in 2006 and now works for The Associated Press, declined comment. The story of Glover's death was first reported in The Nation magazine and Web site late last year. A companion report alleged that some white residents of Algiers Point turned into vigilantes after the storm, shooting at black people they considered possible looters. Federal agents have also been looking into those allegations. Brendan McCarthy can be reached at or 504.826.3301. Laura Maggi can be reached at or 504.826.3316.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Drunk Cop Blasts Hole in Pal's Car

Drunk off-duty Queens cop blasts hole in pal's car outside club
The New York Daily News by Alison Gendar, Rocco Parascandola and Wil Cruz - September 6, 2009

An off-duty detective who was "wasted" following a night of boozing in Brooklyn was suspended on Saturday - after his gun accidentally went off and blasted a hole in a car, police sources said. William Powell, a 15-year Queens veteran, had just gotten into the car with friends from the GridLoc Truck Club - a social club of Brooklyn bikers - sometime before 3 a.m., the sources said. That's when Powell's gun accidentally discharged, blowing a hole through his pal's car outside the Sutter Ave. club. "He was wasted drunk," said a source. "He said he was adjusting his gun and it went off." Two rookie cops from nearby Police Service Area 2 heard the shot and immediately pulled up. "Don't f--- with me! I'm on the job," Powell, 40, told them, a source said. The cops took Powell into custody. His friends were not charged, the source said. Powell was not arrested, but investigators determined that he was too drunk to perform his duties as a police officer. NYPD policy prohibits officers from being unfit for duty, even if they're not working at the time. Powell, who comes from a family of cops, was suspended - and could face harsher penalties. "He'll be lucky to keep his job," said another source. - With Mike Jaccarino and Joe Kemp

'Police Department' Under Investigation

Mid-South police department investigated for shooting, speed traps
WMC-TV by Lori Brown - September 5, 2009

JERICHO, AR (WMC-TV) - A small town story reminiscent of a John Grisham novel is now making national news. A police officer in Jericho, Arkansas, shot the town's fire chief in the middle of a courtroom following an argument over speed traps. At the Regional Medical Center in nearby Memphis, Jericho Fire Chief Don Payne continues to recover from a gunshot wound to his side. His attorney, Randy Fishman, said the shooting followed a shoving match. Payne, he says, was unarmed. "Shoving match ensued he was shoved from behind. Then one of the officers saw fit to Barney Fife-style pull a weapon and fire at him," Fishman said. He also says the city is at fault for its makeshift police department. "In society, when we give a man a pistol, he better be trained. Know how to use it, and when to use it, or we're out in the wild, wild, west." The police officer involved in the shooting has been neither charged nor cleared. The prosecuting attorney is expected to make a decision about whether or not to file charges by the beginning of next week. The ordeal brought to light something Jericho residents say is a major problem. Just about everyone who lives there has a story about a ticket they say was unfair. And the complaints stretch beyond city limits. Dr. Clint Abner says he used to commute through the town until he received two speeding tickets in two weeks, totaling $250. "He told me I was doing 50 in a 45," said Abner. "I told him he was wrong. I was not speeding - I was well aware of my speed." Meanwhile, the police department in the town of less than 200 residents now appears to be taking a break. Jericho's only police cars haven't budged since the allegations of corruption began heating up. "It's our understanding there aren't any police officers working at this time. That's why we've stepped up patrols," said Crittenden County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Thomas Martin. And rather than being concerned about the lack of police presence in town, Jericho residents are instead breathing a sigh of relief. Action News 5 was unable to find Jericho's police chief Friday. Even Martin says he doesn't know how to reach him.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Veteran Cop Charged With Hiring Hitman to Rub Out Wife

Veteran Queens cop Anthony Battisti charged with hiring hitman to rub out wife
The New York Daily News by Henrick Karoliszyn, Edgar Sandoval and Corky Siemaszk - September 4th 2009

A Queens cop who prosecutors say couldn't handle that his ex-wife was dating a firefighter was charged Friday with hiring a hit man to kill her. Officer Anthony Battisti looked down and said nothing as his lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf in Nassau County Criminal Court. "He can't believe that he is being indicted," attorney Stephen Scaring said after Battisti was led off in handcuffs. "He can't believe this is happening." Scaring said Battisti had an "unblemished record" and insisted the officer was set up by his handyman Timothy Gersbeck - the alleged hit man who plunged a screwdriver into Patricia Battisti's neck on Jan. 23. "We're talking about a guy who openly committed a crime and then looked for the easiest way out," the lawyer said. "The easiest way out was to attack a police officer, accuse him of it." Scaring also said Battisti had no motive for murdering his ex because he was getting custody of his kids and "everything was working in my client's favor."

Prosecutor Michael Canty said the fact that Battisti is a police officer "makes these charges all the more egregious." "He conspired with another individual to execute his ex-wife," Canty said. Battisti, 42, faces life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy, assault and criminal possession of a weapon charges. He was marched off to the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, where he will stay until Wednesday when he returns for a bail hearing. Battisti's ex was not in the courtroom and could not be reached at her home in Franklin Square, L.I. Shocked neighbors said Battisti also served as a volunteer firefighter and often plowed their driveways during snowstorms. "I'd like to think that he is not that kind of monster," said a 65-year-old neighbor named Judy. "I would like to think he would not do that. I would see him, drop off and pick up the children. He seemed nice." Another neighbor, Rene Abbananto, called the 44-year-old stabbing victim "a sweetheart." "She is a great mother," said Abbananto, whose husband is an NYPD cop. "She is a great person who did not deserve this. It was pretty vicious." On the job for more than 17 years, Battisti was suspended in January, soon after Gersbeck claimed the officer paid him $5,000 to kill his ex-wife. Gersbeck, 34, was arrested after cops say he stabbed Patricia Battisti in the neck with a screwdriver outside the home she once shared with the officer. A tattooed thug who served 60 days in jail three years ago for running a scam to collect thousands in unemployment insurance, Gersbeck has also been charged in connection with the alleged attempted hit. He told investigators Battisti ordered the rubout because he was jealous of his ex-wife's new love interest - a city firefighter. Scaring questioned why prosecutors waited nine months to charge Battisti. "If this was a real case, they would have brought it a long time ago," the lawyer said. "We're going to trial. We expect to win this case."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cop Charged with Drugs, Threats

Monongahela police officer charged with drugs, threats
The Post-Gazette by Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Monongahela Police Chief Brian Tempest, left, talks to the media yesterday, with District Attorney Steven Toprani behind him at the entrance to the Washington County Courthouse.
Washington County District Attorney Steven Toprani said that a Monongahela police officer arrested yesterday on drug and corruption charges represents a culture of corruption he has been wrestling with since he took office 20 months ago. Monongahela patrolman George M. Langan thwarted the efforts of a Washington County drug task force by tipping off drug dealers and also operated as a drug dealer, Mr. Topriani said. He also threatened some people who authorities say purchased drugs from him. He described the patrolman as "rogue" officer who was "an important figure in Monongahela's cocaine trade." Mr. Langan's arrest brings to five the number of local police officers charged with corruption and related crimes under Mr. Toprani's brief regime. "I view the allegations and arrest with a profound sense of sadness," said Mr. Toprani, who lives in neighboring Carroll. "My commitment to stamp out corruption remains firm." Mr. Toprani's comments came during a news conference in front of the county courthouse yesterday, just hours after Officer Langan, 45, was arrested and lodged in the county jail on $500,000 bond. Officer Langan, a 16-year veteran of the Monongahela police, was called into the police department about two hours into his shift yesterday morning and told to remove his gun and belt for a random drug test. He was taken into custody and charged with 11 counts of violating the drug act, and 23 counts of public corruption, including official oppression, evidence tampering and criminal conspiracy. His arrest stemmed from an indictment handed down Thursday from a new countywide grand jury empaneled earlier this year by Mr. Toprani. The indictment capped a four-month investigation into corruption and drug dealing in the Mon Valley, and there could be more arrests, Mr. Toprani said.

He said Officer Langan was targeted by the grand jury after members of the drug task force became suspicious of possible police corruption in the Monongahela area. The task force, made up of several dozen police officers from throughout the county, acts in secret to investigate and eliminate the local drug trade. Detective Ronald J. Levi of the drug task force said doubts were raised recently when his team coordinated several undercover purchases of the narcotic painkiller oxycontin from a group of drug dealers in the Mon Valley. Local police were notified shortly before a final buy and coordinating raid were planned, Detective Levi said, but it became obvious that the dealers had been tipped off and the plan went awry. "We suspected something was up," he said. The group didn't have far to look, as Mr. Langan -- called "G-Money" by friends -- had been under investigation for at least the last 10 years by the state attorney general's office, the state police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Toprani said. The details of those investigations are unclear for now, but Monongahela police Chief Brian Tempest said during his 20-odd years as a local patrolman, he suspected Mr. Langan of wrongdoing and forwarded his concerns to then-chief Dennis Mendicino. "I feel this has been going on for 10 years," said Chief Tempest, who was appointed chief in January 2008, when new Mayor Robert Kepics was elected. Ex-chief Mendicino, who still works on the force of 18 officers, was demoted to sergeant.

Chief Tempest said there were rumors for years that members of the police force were corrupt, and said he's glad to finally be able to address them. "It's a sad day for law enforcement," he said. "I feel sad. He was my friend." Although details will remain sketchy until the grand jury indictment is unsealed during a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the criminal complaint filed yesterday alleges Mr. Langan was in possession of cocaine on or about June 15 and June 17, when an undercover operation was launched. During the same time period, he is accused of delivering cocaine to Sgt. Mendicino's ex-wife, Lori Mendicino, and to Mike Tatar, Nick Simon and Wendy Biagini -- who he has since been accused of threatening. In April, police said Mr. Langan tipped off Mr. Tatar, Millie Schiffer and Kurt Neff to pending arrests and search warrants. Mr. Langan's actions rose to the level of racketeering, the complaint alleges, and put the lives of other law enforcement officials in "grave danger." Mr. Toprani said the investigation wouldn't have been possible without the grand jury, "a very effective tool," which hears confidential testimony and has the power to compel cooperation. He said it's possible that more charges will be forthcoming, and that Mr. Langan wasn't acting alone. "This is certainly a difficult day for law enforcement, but it's a necessary one," he said. Janice Crompton and be reached at 724-223-0156 or

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sentencings in Police Corruption Case

Sentencings set in Indy police corruption case
The Associated Press - September 2, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Two former Indianapolis narcotics detectives convicted of stealing drugs and money will be sentenced later this month. A federal jury in June convicted Robert B. Long of 4 counts of actual or attempted drug possession with intent to distribute. Jason P. Edwards was convicted of 3 drug counts. Long's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 23 and Edwards' hearing is at 10 a.m. Sept. 29. Federal prosecutors say each faces up to 20 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors. James D. Davis, a patrolman who assisted the detectives, already has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by three years' supervised release. Davis testified against Long and Edwards during their trial. Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cop-turned-robber: I needed to pay bills

Cop-turned-robber: I needed to pay bills
The New York Daily News by Thomas Zambito - September 2, 2009

Cop-turned-robber Christian Torres told a judge Tuesday he pulled two Manhattan bank jobs because it was the only way he could make ends meet on an NYPD salary. "I couldn't afford my rent," Torres told Manhattan Federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain as he copped a plea Tuesday. Torres, 23, was a cadet at the Police Academy and then a rookie cop earning $32,000 a year when he knocked over a Sovereign Bank branch in the East Village - twice. He pleaded guilty to the $118,000 in heists Tuesday and faces more than eight years in prison as part of his deal with the feds. He blamed a college buddy - bank teller Christina Dasrath, who is serving 2-1/2 years - for convincing him that being a crook paid better than catching one. On June 8, 2007, Torres walked into Sovereign on Avenue A and handed Dasrath a note that said he would "start shooting" if she didn't "empty both drawers." He walked out with $16,305. Five months later, he marched into the same branch while employees were opening and put them in a vault as Dasrath loaded $102,000 into a bag.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Former Cop Pleads Guilty To Bank Robbery

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - September 1, 2009

A former rookie police officer has pleaded guilty to holding up the same New York City bank twice -- both inside jobs with a teller. Christian Torres told a federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday that he became a bandit because he was broke and afraid he'd have to drop out of the police academy. The 23-year-old Torres already had been sentenced to 121 months in prison in a Pennsylvania bank heist. The bank teller was sentenced to 30 months earlier this year for giving Torres information that helped in all the holdups. Torres faces up to 97 months in prison at sentencing on Nov. 6.