Charges have been laid against six veteran Toronto police officers in the wake of a massive 2½-year RCMP investigation into corruption on the force.
Staff-Sergeant John Schertzer, Detective Constable Steven Correia and Constables Raymond Pollard, Joseph Miched, Ned Maodus and Richard Benoit have been charged with more than 20 offences, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury, extortion, assault causing bodily harm and theft over $5,000.
Constable Maodus, a 15-year member of the force, was arrested Monday by the Toronto Police Service Professional Standards Special Task Force and charged with possession of heroin, cocaine and ecstasy for the purposeof trafficking.
The officers, five of whom are still active on the force, were members of the Police Service's central drug squad. They turned themselves in at Toronto Police headquarters Wednesday morning and are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon. All have been suspended with pay while they await trial.
"As I stand here today with the news that five serving officers and one retired officer are now facing charges I am deeply saddened and disappointed," Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said Wednesday. "Without doubt, this whole situation is quite regrettable."
Four other officers - Greg Forestall, John Reid, Jason Kondo and Mike Turnbull - were named as unindicted co-conspirators Wednesday. The officers have not been charged with a criminal offence but will be placed on restricted duties.
Wednesday's arrests mark the culmination of an internal Toronto Police Services investigation that began in 1999 with allegations of thefts of relatively small amounts of money from the force's so-called "fink fund," used by officers to pay their informants.
That investigation led in the fall of 2000 to dozens of criminal and Police Act charges, virtually all of them abruptly dropped in February last year, with the only case that proceeded to court, and involving two officers from another squad, resulting in jury acquittals.
In August, 2001, Chief Fantino asked the RCMP to oversee a separate independent investigation into the allegations that members of the drug squad were beating and stealing from suspects.
Chief Superintendent John Neily, who led the RCMP investigation, said the evidence in case pointed squarely at a small group of officers who chose to get involved in criminal activity while trying to obstruct justice.
The charged officers are alleged to have falsified notes and internal police records, given false testimony, sworn to false affidavits to obtain search warrants and failed to account for evidence they seized.
"Police officers are not above the law," Chief Supt. Neily said. "It never has been, and never will be, acceptable for police to engage in criminal activity or take the law in to their own hands. There is no excuse."
"...The special task force mandate challenged us to follow the truth, The truth has led us to where we are today."
Chief Fantino that while Wednesday's news was troubling, it must not take away from the public's trust in the good work that the vast majority of officers in the Toronto Police Service do every day.
"We must maintain our faith in the system," Chief Fantino said. "I do today as I always have in the past. I can however tell you that the allegations are isolated and confined. The investigation has been independent, extremely exhaustive and most definitely thorough."
"...Although I would have preferred a different outcome, I know that the public interest has been well served."
Six veteran police officers, once frontline troops in this city's war on drugs, arrived at 32 Division in North York about 8 a.m. this morning to face a host of charges.
The charges are expected to range from theft, assault, obstruction and perjury.
Police union spokesperson Andrew Clarke said they would be formally fingerprinted and photographed and later taken to Scarborough court for a bail hearing.
It's expected they would be released on their own with promise to appear later in court.
The officers went in the back door of the station, sparking questions from the media horde camped out about why they didn't enter through the front door.
"They are police officers and this is the way police officers usually enter," Clarke said this morning.
Police Chief Julian Fantino told a morning news conference he was disheartened by the news but called the charges "isolated" and not reflective of any general corruption on the Toronto force.
"I am deeply saddened and disappointed," Fantino said. "Without doubt and from all points of view this whole situation is quite regrettable."
"However, we must keep this situation in perspective ... the allegations are isolated and confined."
Police union lawyer Gary Clewley said earlier today that the allegations are "nothing more at this point."
Clewley added "there isn't a lick of proof."
The charges are no surprise to some of the officers, who have suspected for months they might be the focus of a probe led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
One Toronto officer was even followed by a surveillance officer to the police association headquarters, on Yorklands Blvd. in North York, where he had gone to attend a union meeting.
Rick McIntosh, head of the 7,000-member police association, was not immediately available for comment, but it was expected that the union would fund the legal defence for the six, likely to cost several hundred thousand dollars.
The long-anticipated charges come following an intensive, 30-month investigation into allegations of corruption among officers from the central field command drug squad and other units investigating the sale of illicit narcotics, such as crack cocaine and heroin.
There had been late discussions on whether the officers should be arrested and handcuffed as they left their homes or arrived at work.
By late yesterday, however, it was decided they should be allowed to surrender themselves at a police station, in what is called a "friendly."
Police officers facing serious criminal allegations are usually suspended with pay until their case is over.
A trial, said one insider, could be two or even three years away, as lawyers begin the slow and arduous job of going through the "discovery" package - all the evidence compiled by the task force during its 2½-year probe.
The task force, headed by RCMP chief superintendent John Neily, began delving into the murky underworld of Toronto's illicit drug trade following unproven allegations that dealers were being "ripped off" by those who were supposed to enforce the law.
It has been estimated that the investigation cost considerably more than $3 million.
The special squad, working out of a secret location in North York, was comprised of officers with the Toronto force, themselves sworn to secrecy while delving into the alleged wrongdoing of their brother officers.
A special prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney-General spent the past six months reviewing the compiled evidence before deciding to proceed with the charges.
Earlier this week, the task force announced charges against former central command drug officer Ned Maodus, 40. Maodus was charged Monday with possession of heroin and cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of ecstasy.
One former Toronto drug squad officer, Robert Kelly, has been convicted. Kelly pleaded guilty in June to possessing 3.15 grams of cocaine. His sentencing hearing is to continue in a Brampton courtroom Jan. 23.
Allegations being made by the task force against the six drug squad officers expected to be charged today stem from an earlier probe by the force's internal affairs unit, dating back to 1999.
That investigation led to charges of theft, fraud and forgery against eight central drug squad officers in November, 2000.
While those charges were still before the court, Chief Julian Fantino called in Neily in July, 2001, to lead a task force that would include reviewing the work done by the internal affairs unit.
Just after the task force was announced, federal drug prosecutors made public the fact that 115 drug cases had been stayed because of the probe into the Toronto drug squad.
Prosecutors dropped another bombshell in February, 2002, when they went into court and stayed all the charges against the eight officers, saying the prosecution might compromise the ongoing investigation by Neily's team.
A charge of perjury against a ninth officer was also stayed.
While the RCMP-led task force quietly went about its business, reviewing drug cases, talking to those arrested by certain officers, and developing informants, the case became very public when former drug defendants and narcotics officers started filing civil suits.
In several suits, people arrested by drug squad officers are claiming their rights were violated or that money and belongings were stolen from them during police raids.
Eight officers have filed their own $116 million lawsuit against Neily, Fantino, crown attorneys and government officials, claiming they are the subject of a witch hunt by the force and province.
TORONTO - Charges were laid on Wednesday against six Toronto police officers following the largest corruption investigation in the history of Canadian policing.
The former drug squad officers face a total of more than 40 charges, including conspiracy, attempt to obstruct justice, extortion, theft, assault and perjury.
They turned themselves in on Wednesday morning.
The six charged on Wednesday include a retired officer. They were all long-serving members of the force, one of them having been an officer for 28 years.
The officers are suspended with pay.
The charges come after a two-and-a-half-year internal police investigation led by RCMP Chief Supt. John Neily.
"This investigation was led entirely by the evidence," Neily told a news conference.
Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said the public should feel more confident about its police force considering the way the investigation was initiated and carried out.
"I am totally committed to leading a professional and ethical organization," Fantino said.
Fantino said he was disappointed in the outcome of the investigation, but draws comfort from the fact the incidents were "isolated and confined."
The probe was ordered after provincial prosecutors dropped more than 200 drug cases. Many of the accused drug offenders had filed civil lawsuits alleging drug squad officers beat them and stole their money.
One of the complainants, Christopher Quigley, said he was beaten so badly that he had to go to the hospital after police arrested him in 1998.
"These are extremely vicious, dangerous people that have no boundaries, that are obviously, or think that they are above the law," he said.
Police lawyer Gary Clewley maintains that Quigley's story isn't true.
"They didn't do it. Nothing novel about that. Not guilty."
Ten other lawsuits were filed alleging similar crimes. Police and the city of Toronto settled several of them, with an agreement that the details will remain confidential.
Clewley has always said those lawsuits were simply a tool used by drug dealers to cast suspicion on the police.
"Their superiors knew what they were doing and how they were doing it and they didn't have any problem with it," he said.
"Some of them were promoted, many were encouraged to stay in the drug squad for longer periods than ordinary because they were doing an excellent job."
Clewley also questioned the RCMP-led task force that investigated.
"The motto of the RCMP has always been exaggerate now and investigate later."