HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html New Drug Case Bombshell
Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jan 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star
Contact:  http://www.thestar.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/456
Author: Nick Pron

NEW DRUG CASE BOMBSHELL

Unsealed Affidavits Detail Wide Range Of Alleged Corruption

They Suggest Officers Stole, Lied In Court, 'Taxed' Drug Dea

Stunning new allegations in the drug squad scandal that has rocked the 
Toronto police force were unsealed by the province's highest court yesterday.

A series of sworn affidavits from a task force that probed the central 
field command drug squad allege that police officers charged a "tax" on 
drug dealers to ply their trade in certain areas of Toronto.

Other allegations against the officers are that they:

Took up to $479,000 from safety deposit boxes, though charges filed later 
mention only $34,000.

Beat up a drug dealer for information.

Pocketed jewellery, narcotics and cash while doing searches.

Lied in court to get convictions against drug traffickers.

Some drug squad officers had suspiciously large bank balances while working 
with the squad, the documents stated.

Lawyer Earl Levy told the judges information in the affidavits was 
"inflammatory" and would influence potential jurors. Rick McIntosh, head of 
the 7,000-member police union, warned that the documents released by the 
Ontario Court of Appeal were just allegations, untested by a trial.

"People should not be quick to rush to judgment," McIntosh said in an 
interview. "Let these officers have their day in court."

The task force probing the alleged corruption, headed by Chief 
Superintendent John Neily of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, worried 
about the safety of potential witnesses in the case, including other police 
officers, one affidavit said.

It said that in an investigation of another drug squad, an officer was 
warned he would "get his kneecaps broken" for talking to internal affairs.

The disclosures were contained in affidavits by the task force that probed 
alleged corruption in the drug squad, eventually charging six officers on 
Jan. 7 with offences ranging from assault to extortion and conspiracy to 
obstruct justice.

The documents were sought by the media, including the Star, on the grounds 
the public had a right to know why the federal Department of Justice asked 
the appeal court to overturn a conviction against a heroin dealer the 
officers investigated.

That information had been sealed until the task force completed its 
investigation. But with the investigation ended and charges before the 
court, three appeal court judges ordered the information released, despite 
objections by lawyers representing the six officers that the documents 
would prejudice their right to a fair trial.

Mr. Justice Michael Moldaver was unsympathetic to the defence lawyers' 
concerns, saying that if the "whole thing was published tomorrow" he would 
read it and probably forget most of it by the following day.

Peter Brauti, a lawyer representing the officers who were named in the 
affidavits but not charged, said they will not get a chance to clear their 
names because they won't get their day in court.

Mr. Justice David Doherty told him "there is nothing stopping you from 
going to the public forum" to clear their names.

Moldaver, Doherty and Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg, citing the public's right 
to know why a conviction against one drug dealer was overturned, agreed to 
release documents that were heavily edited in places.

The documents described how drug squad officers had been the target of 
public complaints and suspicion within the force going back to 1995.

One officer, Staff Sergeant John Schertzer, appeared to be living beyond 
his means, the document stated. He was later charged.

The documents describe a "sting operation" on another of the drug squad 
officers, Constable Joseph Miched (since retired), one of the six charged.

Miched "actively participated" in what he apparently thought was the 
laundering of several hundreds of thousands of dollars by organized crime 
but was in reality a ruse by investigators, one affidavit stated.

He was paid to provide security, count the cash and move the funds from one 
underworld criminal to another. But he was actually taking the money from 
one undercover officer to another, it said.

While Miched denied he was involved in any wrongdoing with the squad, he 
talked generally about "thefts" from safety deposit boxes, the swiping of a 
kilogram of cocaine by police officers and the extortion of drug dealers, 
charging them a "tax" to sell narcotics in areas of Toronto, the document 
stated.

Since Miched never spoke about specific cases of wrongdoing, what he said 
couldn't be used as evidence, but he was being "deceptive," it said.

The documents given to the media contained an appendix labelled "Summary of 
Alleged Misconduct."

In one allegation, three drug squad officers stole $70,000 from a safety 
deposit box at a CIBC branch, getting access to it with a bogus search warrant.

Some of the money they allegedly stole was savings belonging to the mother 
of a man police arrested.

In another alleged theft, a bank manager told investigators that Schertzer 
and Constable Steve Correia, both later charged, "dumped" the cash, 
including "many $100 bills," from a deposit box into a bag. But police 
records detailing the seizure did not mention $100 bills.

In another case, a drug dealer passed a lie-detector test after he 
complained to the police that drug squad officers stole $80,000 worth of 
jewelry and $20,000 in cash when they searched his house.

Another convicted drug dealer complained the drug squad officers took a 
$10,000 coin collection while searching his house.

The officers who were eventually charged, with team number 3 of the central 
field command drug squad, were a busy lot, one affidavit said.

In one 2 1/2-year period, from early 1997 to May, 1999, they laid 1,131 
charges in 286 drug cases. But a review found several discrepancies, it 
said. It went on to describe how 83 per cent of the charges laid by the 
drug team between 1996 and 1999, the unit headed by Schertzer, were either 
stayed or withdrawn.

Compared with other drug squads, that was a "remarkably high figure" of 
dropped cases, the affidavit said.

"The information collected ... discloses repeated patterns of suspected 
criminal activity by the same team of police officers," it said, referring 
to Schertzer's team.
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