News Column

Six Cops Arrested in Federal Corruption Probe

July 30, 2014

By Jeremy Roebuck and Mike Newall, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Six Philadelphia officers were arrested Wednesday in a predawn roundup and charged with robbing, kidnapping, and extorting drug suspects over a nearly seven-year period.

The officers had been involved in narcotics investigations until they were removed from street duty by Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey late last year.

The officers charged in a federal indictment are Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Brian Reynolds and Michael Spicer, John Speiser and Linwood Norman.

The indictment alleges the officers falsified records, held people without arrest, stole drugs and shared in the proceeds.

Federal officials said they stole more than $500,000 from February 2006 to November 2012, including Rolex watches, electronics and a Calvin Klein suit.

The officers allegedly took part in a game involving beating drug suspects for points and even held one suspect from a balcony 30-feet above the ground and knocked out his teeth.

"That many of the victims were drug dealers, not Boy Scouts, is irrelevant," said Edward Hanko, special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Office.

Ramsey, who attended the news conference where the charges were announced, said the arrests stemmed from "one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard."

"These officers don't represent the majority of this department," Ramsey said.

All the officers, except for Speiser, face up to life in prison, officials said. For Speiser, the maximum term is 40 years.

The arrests come seven months after Ramsey first acknowledged a federal probe was underway and said he had pulled at least four of its targets, all narcotics squad veterans, off of street duty.

The probe intensified after former officer Jeffrey Walker pleaded guilty to federal counts of attempted robbery and using a gun during a violent crime in January. Prosecutors said during his last court hearing he had been cooperating with the investigation.

Questions have dogged the narcotics officers' work since at least 2012, when District Attorney Seth Williams said his office no longer trusted their testimony in drug cases, a decision that led to the dismissal of hundreds of prior arrests.

The city has since paid at least $777,000 to settle lawsuits claiming the officers framed suspects with false testimony and evidence. Dozens more remain on court dockets awaiting resolution.

Walker, 45, began cooperating with the investigation almost as soon as he was arrested last year in an FBI sting operation, his lawyer said.

An undercover informant caught the former officer on tape scheming to set up a South Philadelphia drug dealer by planting nearly 28 grams of cocaine in his car.

Walker later took his mark's keys, broke into his house and stole $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana.

Source: (c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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