Feds: Uniformed Philly police officers used badges to rob drug dealers
Federal prosecutors in an indictment unsealed Tuesday charged two former Philadelphia police officers with allegedly leveraging their badges and guns to rob drug dealers.
Jonathan Garcia, 23, has been in federal custody since a sting operation conducted June 29, 2012 that led to his arrest for allegedly selling heroin.
Sydemy Joanis, 27, was arrested Tuesday, though Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he resigned from the force soon after Garcia was arrested.
Officials with the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department allege Garcia and Joanis conspired to rob suspected drug dealers of narcotics trafficking proceeds while on active duty between December 2009 and June 2012, using a confidential source – identified in court documents only as Person #1 – to help identify targets, buy drugs and, in some cases, to plant drugs in targets’ cars in order to justify searches and seizures.
“Garcia and Joanis stopped and searched individuals whom they believed were drug dealers,” U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said.
“If Garcia and Joanis found other drugs or money during the search, they seized the items and arrested the individual.
“Garcia and Joanis then prepared paperwork, which at various times failed to identify their use of a confidential source, fabricated the justifications for the police stop and failed to fully disclose all of the money seized from those arrested.”
The two officers are accused of providing Person #1 with money and instructing the informant to meet with suspected drug dealers inside their cars.
Prosecutors said they often told Person #1 to leave behind a small amount of the drug purchased – usually crack cocaine – inside the car.
As Person #1 exited the vehicles, Garcia and Joanis would then allegedly initiate bogus traffic stops on the suspected drug dealers and, after finding the drugs purposefully left behind by the informant and arrest the suspects.
The officers would then allegedly falsify paperwork to steal all or some of the money recovered from the arrest and split the proceeds.
“It’s disappointing because it paints the entire department with a broad brush, but the vast majority of our officers work hard every day, do a good job, do it honestly and they deserve better than to have people like this in the ranks, and I’m committed to rooting them out,” Ramsey said.
He added corrupt conduct is damaging to the essential public trust in the department crucial to officers properly doing their jobs.
“Do I think it’s systemic? No I don’t,” he said.
“But do I think we have rotten cops in our ranks? We do have a few and we’re going to root them out.”
Ramsey said he’s open to discussing oversight policies regarding how cases are reviewed to identify possible patterns of officer misconduct, but added corrupt cops make it a point to circumvent department directives and orders.
“Obviously, what they’re accused of doing is not standard operating procedure,” he said.
“They find a way to work around this stuff, so keep that in mind. It’s not as if I’m one directive short of preventing a person from doing this. He’s just a thief, he’s a crook, I mean, he’s committing robberies.”
If convicted, Garcia and Joanis each face a minimum sentence of 30 years in jail and a maximum penalty of a life prison term.