The New York Daily News by David J. Krajicek - January 1, 2012
$70 million drug theft rocked city police department in 1972
Policeman works at NYPD property desk where more than $70 million in "French Connection" heroin was slowly stolen from evidence between 1969 and early 1972. Forty years ago this week, a cop scratched a name into the ledger at a chaotic warren stuffed with police evidence at 400 Broome St. and walked out lugging nearly $25 million worth of heroin, no questions asked. The Property Clerk’s Office was the police department’s Fort Knox, with bomb-proof walls and castle-strength doors. It was impregnable, unless you were a cop — or were posing as one. That is how “Nunziata,” shield number 3496, managed to leave those premises on Jan. 4, 1972, with nearly 100 pounds of smack, enough to keep every doper in the city high for months. The shield number was bogus. The name was questionable. The only certain fact in the ledger was the time: 12:25 p.m., lunch hour. This would prove to be the final withdrawal by a cabal of corrupt cops and mobsters of at least $70 million worth of “French Connection” heroin, which had been sitting in evidence for a decade following its seizure 50 years ago, in 1962. In every detail, the plundering of the evidence illuminated the pervasive police corruption of that era. “It is tragically apparent that the department’s procedures for the control of confiscated narcotics have been totally inadequate,” admitted Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy. Just how inadequate? It was considered revolutionary on Broome St. when Murphy ordered an inventory of the 135,000 parcels of narcotics stored there. Until then, inventory control was based on the honor system. “You have to rely basically on the honesty of your employees,” the boss of the property office said. That didn’t work out so well. And the narcotics thefts came to light only because of another police scandal that became incidental by comparison. In October 1972, cops identified one of their own, Patrolman James Farley, 29, as a serial rapist who had targeted perhaps a dozen women in the city and suburbs. He was arrested by detectives tailing him as he talked his way into a woman’s house not far from his own home in Holbrook, Long Island. When they searched Farley’s place, cops found a collection of manila envelopes from drug evidence signed out of the Property Clerk’s Office. This prompted a search on Broome St., where officials discovered that the French Connection heroin, stored in suitcases, was infested with red beetles. Someone had replaced 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine with flour.
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