By Tony Hanson and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Six Philadelphia police officers who served in the narcotics squad were taken into custody by FBI agents early this morning as part of a federal corruption probe.
All of those officers are current or former narcotics officers: John Speiser, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Thomas Liciardello, and Linwood Norman. All are facing multiple charges including extortion, robbery, kidnapping, and drug-dealing.
Sources previously confirmed that a federal grand jury has been investigating allegations that Philadelphia narcotics officers stole drugs and money and committed robberies of drug dealers, in some cases allegedly using their guns to do it.
In one incident, officials say, the accused held one of the drug suspects for days in a hotel while threatening him and making threats against his family.
In another alleged incident, one victim was reportedly dangled over the edge of an 18th-floor balcony in order to get information.
“It was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare,” James McIntyre told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter in an interview. McIntyre, in a lawsuit filed against several of the officers, claims he was manhandled then wrongfully arrested, spending six months behind bars before charges were withdrawn.
The joint investigation by the Philadelphia Police Department and the FBI also revealed the officers would play a “game” in which they scored points by coming up with different ways of abusing suspects.
Following announcement of the indictments, Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said, “I’ve been a police officer for over 40 years and this is one of the worst cases of corruption I’ve ever heard.”
The accused are also said to have robbed drug dealers, taking items including cash and expensive watches.
The incidents reportedly took place between 2006 and 2012. One of those charged, Liciardello, is said to have been the main culprit in falsifying records after the incidents.
A key figure in this case is Jeffrey Walker, a former cop who has pleaded guilty to corruption and is now cooperating with authorities. He was arrested last year on corruption charges and reportedly started cooperating immediately.
Over the past year, authorities have been working to corroborate the information he provided, which resulted in the six arrests as dawn broke this morning.
“These officers don’t represent the majority of this department,” Commissioner Ramsey said today. “The majority of our department was represented in the dedicated police work displayed during the past few days, working endlessly with the community and getting wanted criminals off the street,” he added, referring to the arrest of two men now charged with a hit-and-run car crash that killed three children. “We will continue to be transparent; we will continue to pursue those involved in corruption, and remove those who don’t belong in this department. We will continue to make strong efforts in developing trusting relationships with every community as we build a safer Philadelphia for our citizens.”
Mayor Nutter, following the announcement of charges against the six police officers, said the implicit warning to the rest of the force is, if you are corrupt, you will be prosecuted.
“The message is the same: do your job, don’t stray from the law. If you do, we will find you. You will be prosecuted and more than likely you will go to jail,” the mayor said, adding that these were a few bad apples in the Philadelphia Police Department.
“Ninety-nine to infinity percent of our officers are hard-working, dedicated, and honest,” Nutter said. “Unfortunately, there are a few who tarnish their badge.”
All six suspects pled not guilty at their first appearance in federal court. Prosecutors say they plan to ask that all six be held in prison without bail to await their trials.
Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams announced today that the latest corruption arrests within the Philadelphia Police Department are causing his office to widen its review of cases involving those officers. He pointed out that the cases of five of the six officers were already under review for possible issues of falsification.
Finally, the Police Commissioner emphasized the corruption investigation remains open and active, leaving the possibility that other officers could be charged.
KYW’s Mike DeNardo contributed to this report.