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Friday, April 27, 2012

3 State Troopers Suspended in Prostitution Ring Probe

3 state troopers suspended in prostitution ring probe 
The Albany Times Union by Brendan J. Lyons  -  April 27, 2012
Three troopers suspended, including the son of a former high-ranking State Police official 

ALBANY, NY — Three state troopers from western New York were suspended Thursday as part of a State Police investigation into allegations that at least one trooper, and possibly more, were involved in promoting a prostitution ring in which female prostitutes were transported from Canada to the Buffalo area. Two people with knowledge of the case said the investigation involves up to five troopers but is centered on Trooper Titus Z. Taggart, 41, an 18-year veteran and the son of a former State Police colonel. Taggart is assigned to Troop T in Buffalo, a unit that patrols the New York State Thruway. The other two troopers, Jeremy C. Smith, 34, and Michael L. Petritz, 33, were both suspended without pay for misconduct. State Police officials said they were not involved in organizing the alleged prostitution ring. Taggart's father, Arthur L. Taggart, 72, is a retired State Police colonel who was a special assistant to Thomas Constantine, a former State Police superintendent. A State Police spokesman said Taggart was suspended without pay "as a result of an internal investigation that alleges he organized parties that may have involved the promotion of prostitution, while off-duty." The spokesman said there have been no arrests. Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, declined to comment. The investigation began about five months ago as investigators sifted websites with postings that promoted parties where alleged prostitution was being offered, according to a person briefed on the case. State Police investigators have examined allegations that Taggart may have facilitated bringing prostitutes from Canada to the Buffalo area, the person added. Federal law enforcement organizations also are involved in the investigation. New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association President Thomas Mungeer said he was not told of any arrests. "From what I understand there's an investigation into off-duty conduct, and if and when somebody calls for PBA representation for administrative purposes we'll be involved," Mungeer said. "They might have made an arrest. I'm getting kind of hearsay." Titus Taggart could not be reached for comment. He joined the State Police in September 1993. Taggart's Facebook page depicts several photographs in which he is holding what appears to be bottles of alcohol. One photo depicts a sexually charged cartoon rendering of a woman holding a gun and wearing a police uniform augmented with lingerie. The depiction shows the woman standing in front of a heart that is adorned with yellow police tape and the words "busted." In a brief telephone interview Thursday Arthur Taggart said he was unaware his son had been suspended and that he planned to call State Police headquarters for information on his son's case. He declined additional comment and said he would try to reach his son. In December 2010, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped his former chief investigator from the attorney general's office as State Police superintendent. The appointment of Joseph D'Amico, a former New York Police Department deputy chief, followed a series of high-profile political scandals involving the State Police and the governor's office. The first matter involved Gov. Eliot Spitzer's release of information on the use of State Police aircraft by former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, who later resigned from public office in the face of a federal criminal investigation. The second incident centered on allegations a trooper with Gov. David Paterson's security detail had contacted a woman who was involved in a domestic incident with a top Paterson aide. An outside probe found no criminal wrongdoing by State Police in the domestic incident case. • 518-454-5547 • @blyonswriter

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