PHILADELPHIA – Six city narcotics officers used gangland tactics to shake down drug dealers, relying on guns, badges, beatings and threats to extort huge piles of cash and cocaine, federal authorities charged in an indictment Wednesday.
The Philadelphia officers once held a suspect over an 18th-floor balcony and used a steel bar to beat someone else in the head, authorities said. They held one man captive in a hotel room for several days while he and his family were threatened, they said.
And another dealer was thrown in a jail cell overnight, uncharged, while officers broke into his home and stole a safe with $80,000 in it.
“It is almost a perennial in this city, that you go from one corrupt narcotics unit to another,” said lawyer Larry Krasner, who represents some of the approximately 60 people suing the city and individual officers over tainted drug arrests. “When you’re dealing with narcotics, there is always more temptation because the ability to steal and to extort and to abuse is much greater.”
The scheme ran from 2006 to 2012, when Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested. He has since pleaded guilty and cooperated in the ensuing two-year probe. Walker and a colleague “stole and distributed a multi-kilo quantity of cocaine, like everyday drug dealers do,” U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said.
The six accused officers – Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser – all pleaded not guilty during brief federal court hearings Wednesday afternoon. They will be held without bail until detention hearings Monday.
Defense lawyers said the allegations come from dubious informants: drug dealers and Walker.