By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
While NYPD officials boast about what they claim is a steady drop in crime on the streets, crimes committed by cops may be on the upswing.
In the past couple of years, the city's cops have not only been caught up in steroids investigations, like the one revolving around Lowen's Pharmacy in Bay Ridge; they've also been nabbed for running a Canada-to-Long-Island dope ring, stealing guns from their evidence rooms and selling them, providing muscle for an Albanian stick-up crew, pimping out teenaged girls, ratting out their own department to gangster pals, and stealing drugs to give to their informants. Oh, and then there was a New Jersey home invasion by two NYPD cops hoping to steal drugs—not bust the bad guys. Months before, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) had dropped the ball on one of the cops, but things turned out OK: The cops botched the home invasion.
In one of the recent cases, cash-strapped Washington Heights cop Krisix De La Cruz helped her drug-dealing uncle rip off cocaine stash houses in 2005. The cop had borrowed money from her uncle so she could take a prep course to bone up for the sergeants' exam. Luckily for New Yorkers, the FBI busted her before she could take the test and advance in rank. De La Cruz was sentenced this past December 5 to five years in prison for robbery and cocaine conspiracy.
Whether she is an aberration or part of a trend is difficult to determine, because the NYPD—always eager to release stats on what it says is a steady decrease in crime during the past 13 years—refuses to release stats on crimes inside the station houses. The IAB even drags its feet on requests from the City Council.
"We do eventually get what we need, sometimes not exactly when we want them," says Peter Vallone Jr., head of the council's Public Safety Committee. But Vallone, a former prosecutor, contends that the NYPD gets a lot of scrutiny.
"What people don't realize," he says, "is that the NYPD is a 36,000-officer force that right now has more oversight over it than any other police force in the nation. In a force of 36,000, there's always going to be some corruption. There has to be."
During what seems to be a current spate of bad-cop cases, the IAB has been conspicuously absent on the arrest front and let slide at least one suspected cop crime that later broke wide open. At the same time, the so-called "rat squad" has spent a lot of time chasing media leaks. While the IAB has played a relatively minor role in such scandals as the current one revolving around cops and steroids—the Albany and Brooklyn DAs and the State Department of Health broke that one—the IAB has spent considerable time and resources hounding an openly gay cop named Jai Aiken, even after a jury acquitted him of any crime.
Here's a partial list of cop crimes that have come to light in just the past year:
May 2007: The Queens District Attorney's Office notified IAB in November 2006 that rookie police officer Hector Alvarez testified at a murder trial on behalf of a defendant—one who already had a criminal record—without first notifying the department, as NYPD rules dictate. Alvarez violated another departmental rule by admitting during testimony that he was friends with another known criminal in the case. Either infraction could have resulted in his being fired, but no disciplinary action was taken against him. Such action could have saved the department a lot of trouble, because this past May, authorities say, Alvarez and another rookie NYPD cop attempted a home invasion in New Jersey.
On May 18, according to investigators, Alvarez and Miguel Castillo, both 28, traveled to a Rutherford, New Jersey, apartment that was supposed to have a large cache of drugs and where no one was supposed to be home that night. When the duo, dressed in business suits, knocked on the door, a man answered. The surprised cops pressed on with their plan to talk their way in, but their argument with the man drew the attention of a neighbor. They told the neighbor that they were federal agents doing a terrorism investigation, but when the neighbor told them he had called the police, they jumped in their car and drove off. The neighbor passed on their license-plate number to local police, who stopped the two NYPD cops a short time later. The rookie cops tried to claim they were conducting an undercover narcotics operation, but, authorities said, they eventually confessed. They're now awaiting trial.
July 2007: Darren Moonan, a 28-year-old Queens officer, is alleged to have used his badge to help a crew of Albanian mobsters commit at least four robberies totaling more than $1 million. Moonan was basically a police escort for the loot, according to the FBI complaint: "After the crew committed a robbery or burglary, Moonan drove the proceeds of the crime away from the scene, so that if he were stopped, he could tell the officer who stopped him he was himself a police officer."