PHILADELPHIA -- Seven former and current city police officers Tuesday were indicted on charges of stealing money and property from drug suspects in a racketeering scheme that netted members of a special narcotics unit about $400,000, authorities said.
The 16-count federal grand jury indictment charges all seven former members of the 5 Squad, a now-defunct special narcotics unit, with racketeering and conspiracy.
Other charges against various officers include filing false statements and obstructing justice. Two former officers are charged with dealing cocaine, and one former officer is charged with dealing both cocaine and methamphetamine.
One former and six current members of 1 Squad, another special narcotics unit, were indicted on similar charges by a state grand jury. In that case, the defendants were charged with stealing $120,000 from drug dealers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Lee said the individuals indicted Tuesday allegedly took money or other property worth about $400,000 during some 65 searches of drug suspects between January 1980 and February 1984.
The indictment said the officers also took bribes and split the bribes and the money or property seized. Some former officers also covered up the crimes through false police reports and property receipts, the indictment said.
The indictment charged the officers threatened to injure those they searched and threatened to arrest their spouses or children if they interfered.
'If proven at trial these charges represent public corruption at its most vile form,' Lee said, adding that because the allegations are against police officers sworn to uphold the law, it 'makes all other forms of public corruption pale in comparison.'
Before the indictment was announced at the FBI's Philadelphia office, one of those charged, John Wilson, 44, formerly the lieutenant in charge of 5 Squad, walked into the room and tried to make a statement to reporters.
He was hustled out of the office by FBI agents. He later said he did not break any laws and was being framed.
Of those indicted, Wilson, officer David Grove, 39, officer James Cattalo, 35, all were dismissed by the department and are appealing that decision. Sgt. Ronald Giongo, 52, and officer Richard Jumper, 42, and officer Charles Hund, 39, have retired. Former officer Francis Hilt, 41, was suspended Tuesday with intent to dismiss, Police Comissioner Willie Williams said.
Two civilians, Scott Karasinski, 32, and Donald Crawford, 33, were also indicted in the scheme. Karasinski was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and filing a false income tax return, while Crawford was charged with two counts of income tax evasion.
District Atorney Ronald Castille said the break in the case came when the ex-wife of former member 5 Squad member Leo Ryan agreed to cooperate with authorities. The former narcotics officer was convicted in May 1987 of mail fraud and tax charges in the scheme to take money from drug dealers.
'It's a sad day for me personally because I was acquainted with a few of these officiers and had worked alongside of them for a number of years,' Castille said.
After the news conference by the federal and local law enforcement authorities, Wilson said the Justice Department, the FBI, the city District Attorney's office and the city police department never met with him about alleged improprieties with 5 Squad.
'I want them to investigate it. I want them to question me,' said Wilson, who is also charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and three counts of filing false statements.
When asked if he did anything illegal while running 5 Squad, he responded, 'Absolutely not. I am innocent.'