HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Drug Squad Hit With Lawsuits
Pubdate: Mon, 14 Oct 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Colin Freeze
Bookmark: (Corruption)


Former Suspects Allege Wrongful Arrests, Beatings and Illegal Searches By 

Former drug suspects are suing the Toronto Police, claiming they are owed 
millions of dollars for wrongful arrests, beatings and warrantless searches 
- -- and for cash and valuables they say went missing from their homes, 
businesses and safety-deposit boxes during raids in the late 1990s.

The latest suit, at least the seventh so far in a growing group of distinct 
claims, was filed Friday by Christopher Quigley, who was fined about $1,000 
for marijuana possession in 1998.

Mr. Quigley claims a group of six drug officers led by Staff Sergeant John 
Schertzer beat him unconcious, made him sign a release saying he wouldn't 
seek damages for his injuries, and failed to return thousands of dollars 
they seized from his mother's safety-deposit box.

No statement of defence has been filed yet. Staff Sgt. Schertzer and fellow 
drug-squad officers have been named in other, very similar claims, and have 
usually responded by saying that such accusations are unfounded.

"I'm sure the officers will vigorously defend themselves," said Gary 
Clewley, a lawyer who has acted for Staff Sgt. Schertzer and other officers.

Some observers say multiple, similar lawsuits paint a compelling portrait 
of cowboy cops. But Mr. Clewley questions the credibility and motivations 
of the plaintiffs.

"All it proves is monkey see, monkey do," Mr. Clewley said. "It's called 
the bandwagon, and let's get on it. Let's face it, that's what it's about."

Mr. Clewley said that scores of criminals have benefited from light 
punishments or were handed get-out-of-jail-free cards when an estimated 150 
drug cases collapsed.

Now, he says, several of the former suspects are coming forward without 
clear proof of police wrongdoing to claim damages and ask for money.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs point out that most were never convicted or were 
cleared of drug charges, and that their innocence is still presumed. They 
are among hundreds of drug suspects whose prosecutions were tainted by 
allegations of drug officers' misconduct.

"The cases were stayed because in December of 1999, representatives of the 
Toronto Police Service came to the Department of Justice and told us there 
was an investigation under way in regard to a certain street drug squad," 
Jim Leising, the director of the federal prosecution service in Ontario, 
said in an interview.

"An investigation had uncovered evidence of misconduct that would be of a 
sort that would have to be disclosed in the cases where those officers were 
testifying," Mr. Leising said.

The nature of the misconduct was not made plain, even to the Justice 
Department. Still, rather than make disclosures that could compromise the 
internal investigation, the cases were dropped.

Hundreds of people accused of peddling crack, cocaine, heroin, marijuana 
and ecstasy left the criminal-justice system without ever being found 
guilty or not guilty. Some were accused of dealing in very large quantities 
of seized drugs; others were alleged to be dime-bag pushers.

Increased scrutiny, meanwhile, fell upon the Central Field Command drug 
squad. In November, 2000, eight officers from the unit were charged with 
stealing small amounts of money, amounting to a few hundred dollars apiece, 
from the police force itself. Staff Sgt. Schertzer was the highest-ranking 
officer charged.

Last year, that prosecution too was put on hold for an increasingly 
familiar reason: Another internal investigation, this one led by a RCMP 
superintendent, was looking for clearer evidence of police wrongdoing. 
Proceeding with the theft case, the Crown said last February, could 
compromise that probe.

Meanwhile, several former drug suspects began telling their stories in 
statements of claim and hauling their police accusers into the civil 
courts. Some of the former suspects have also made their complaints known 
to the RCMP-led task force, which continues its investigation.

Amid so much claim and counterclaim, only one lawsuit filed by former drug 
suspects has been resolved -- and it has been settled out of court on 
secret terms.

More suits are coming, lawyers say.

These are plaintiffs and their claims, based on court documents:

A Vietnamese family that ran a karaoke bar that police searched for heroin.

Tuyen Vi Nguyen said he got a bloody nose in a raid as plainclothes police 
ransacked his Grange Street business, Thy Restaurant and Karaoke.

His daughter, 9 at the time of the raid, said she asked an officer to 
produce a search warrant and that he responded by threatening to put her 
and her baby sister in a shelter.

Many items, including safety-deposit-box keys, were seized. The Nguyens 
said they later discovered that large amounts of cash and jewellery, 
including diamonds, were missing from their deposit box.

This was all denied by the 12 police officers and the police-services 
board, who said that there were reasonable grounds for Mr. Nguyen's arrest 
and countered that the family was "likely mistaken about what they 
understood was in the safety-deposit box."

The suit was recently settled. The terms were not disclosed.

Husband and wife pizza-parlour owners whose home and business were raided 
for cocaine.

Milos and Natasa Markovic say that during searches, Mr. Markovic was beaten 
unconscious and that valuables were seized, including $361,000 from 
safety-deposit boxes in two banks, $35,000 from a box in their home and 
"expensive designer clothing and a $1,500 bottle of Louis XIII Cognac."

The Markovics allege that police "failed to account for approximately 50 
per cent of the amounts and valuables actually seized and removed."

This is denied by the nine defendant officers and the police board. The 
lawsuit is unresolved.

A man who spent 18 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to dealing in heroin.

Simon Yeung still had 27 months to go on his sentence when the Crown freed 
him, saying it had information that exonerated him.

Prosecutors never revealed what kind of information trumped the guilty 
plea. Whatever it was, they said he should have known about it before pleading.

Mr. Yeung, once publicly identified only as Mr. Y because of a publication 
ban, is suing for various forms of psychological trauma he says occurred 
during his time in Collins Bay Penitentiary.

He and the police are now before an Ontario mediator trying to sort out the 
claim. Two officers are named as defendants.

A mother and her two children who say a heroin investigation broke up the 

Phan ni Pham said police officers broke down her door, refused to show her 
a search warrant, took her to a station and strip-searched her, and put her 
two sons in custody of the Children's Aid Society for two days. The family 
is suing 16 named officers and a judge.

Police deny the allegations and say they searched the apartment only after 
they saw a man with a plastic bag containing heroin walk into the building. 
They say that once Ms. Pham explained things, she was eliminated as a drug 

Two half-brothers who say they pleaded guilty to dealing marijuana for 
sentimental reasons.

Maurice Lacey Young says he took a plea bargain to get out of jail within 
four months so that he could see his daughter's birth. His half-brother, 
Hugh Gregory MacPherson, says he followed suit because the Crown said it 
wanted a "simultaneous resolution" of the charges and he wanted his 
half-brother to be out for the birth.

Mr. Young says that $16,000 and a video camera were seized from him and 
never returned. Both men claim damages for defamation and breach of their 
constitutional rights.

Their claims are denied by the 14 named defendant officers and the police 
board. The suit remains unresolved.

The owner of an after-hours College Street club that police raided for ecstasy.

Wayne Eby says his $50,000 investment in his business was lost after his 
wrongful arrest shut down the club.

Police, who believed the club was frequented by 14- to 18-year-olds, ended 
up seizing eight grams of marijuana from Mr. Eby, who now says the drugs 
were planted on him by police.

The claims are made in Mr. Eby's notice of action, which signals that he 
intends to sue. The allegations are unproven and unresolved. It names three 
officers as defendants.

The police officers named in the lawsuits are generally affiliated with the 
central field command drug squad. Several are targeted in more than one 

Staff Sgt. Schertzer is named in four of the suits; Constables Steve 
Correia, Ned Maodus, Mike Abbott and Mark Denton are named in three.

Complaints similar to the ones made in the lawsuits have surfaced in 
criminal cases.

Until a judge stayed charges last month, Roman Paryniuk was accused of 
dealing large amounts of ecstasy, a hallucinogen related to amphetamine.

In documents filed in his defence, Mr. Paryniuk said that two officers 
claimed "they seized only $664,000 from his safety-deposit box." Mr. 
Paryniuk maintains more money was in it.

Mr. Paryniuk was represented by defence lawyer Edward Sapiano, who 
successfully argued that the 1999 charges had taken too long to go to trial.

Mr. Sapiano assembled a who's who of former drug suspects with gripes. 
"When looking at the claims individually, there's forever the quandary that 
it's one person's word against a police officer," Mr. Sapiano said in an 
interview. "But when you start looking at these cases collectively, the 
individual allegations are compelling."

Documents filed with the court in Mr. Paryniuk's defence show that several 
bank workers have testified that they left the room during 
safety-deposit-box searches, because police told them harmful substances 
might be inside.

Though the ecstasy charges have been dropped, Mr. Paryniuk's criminal 
worries aren't over: He remains accused of attempting to smuggle 8,000 
kilograms of hashish into Canada, hidden in rice bags.

While much is disputed, it is clear that untold millions of dollars have 
been wasted in drug prosecutions that went nowhere. Now taxpayers face 
shelling out more money in the lawsuits, through lengthy defences or from 
eventual settlements.

Despite the cloud that continues to envelop the drug officers, their 
advocates point out that unequivocal proof of police wrongdoing has never 
been established. The real scandal, they argue, is that the drug 
prosecutions were dropped needlessly.

"Someone jumped the gun. It's a huge mess and somebody has to be held 
responsible," said Craig Bromell, head of the 7,000-member Toronto Police 

The RCMP-led task force continues its probe. A history of claims and 

With criminal cases having collapsed, police and former drug suspects are 
now taking their claims and counterclaims to civil courts. Here's a history 
of how it happened. Tellig times April, 1998

- - Christopher Quigley is arrested in a schoolyard. He will be fined $1,100 
for possessing marijuana. He will sue police four years later, claiming 
that he was beaten to the point of hospitalization and made to sign a 
release precluding a lawsuit. February, 1999

- - After a year of gathering evidence on a heroin ring, Central Field drug 
officers engage in simultaneous, and ill-fated, drug raids in the downtown. 
At least two of the raids will result in lawsuits. March, 1999

- - Police arrest Roman Paryniuk, seizing drugs, a .22-calibre Colt revolver, 
and a Taser stun gun. The Ecstasy charges against him will collapse three 
years later for taking too long to get to trial. April, 1999

- - Edward Sapiano, Clayton Ruby and 10 other criminal defence lawyers write 
Toronto Police Internal Affairs, complaining that police stole money from 
their clients. A year later an internal affairs superintendant will respond 
by saying there are "no reasonable grounds to lay a charge of theft."

- - Meanwhile, Maurice Lacey Young and Hugh Gregory MacPherson are arrested. 
They eventually plead guilty to trafficking marijuana, but later sue saying 
they were wrongly arrested.

- - An after-hours club on College Street is raided for drugs. The owner, 
Wayne Eby, later sues for damages over the closure of his club. October, 1999

- - Simon (Mr. Y) Yeung pleads guilty to heroin charges. He will spend most 
of the next two years in prison, until the Crown comes across evidence that 
overturns his conviction. For reasons that remain unclear, he will be 
released less than halfway through his term. And he will sue for damages. 
December, 1999

- - Crown stays charges against karaoke restaurant owner Tuyen Vi Nguyen. He 
and his family will go on to sue, settling 2.5 years later for some money 
but far less than the claimed millions. June, 2000

- - The Crown writes a memo outlining 50 cases dropped or stayed because 
certain drug officers might have been used as witnesses. November, 2000

- - Eight Central Field drug squad officers - John Schertzer, Jonathan Reid, 
Raymond Pollard, Steve Correia, Jaroslaw Cieslik, Joseph Miched, James 
Leslie and Sean McGuinness - are charged with theft for allegedly 
misappropriating police funds. The charges against them will be stayed 14 
months later, as the Crown says proceeding "may compromise an ongoing 
criminal investigation." February, 2001

- - A convicted crack dealer is freed on appeal after an internal 
investigation turns up three informant slips calling into question 
Constable Correia's use of anonymous informants. August, 2001

- - Police Chief Julian Fantino calls in RCMP Superintendant John Neily to 
take over a police corruption probe. By now the number of stayed cases has 
reached about 115. The probe has yet to finish.
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