6 Philadelphia officers charged in corruption case

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6 Philadelphia officers charged in corruption case
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, right, speaks as FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward Hanko, left, and United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, center, listen during a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey speaks at a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey speaks at a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
United States Attorney Zane David Memeger speaks as Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey listens during a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, left, speaks as Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey listens during a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward Hanko, left, United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, center, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey exit a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, left, speaks as FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward Hanko, center and United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, right, listen during a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
United States Attorney Zane David Memeger speaks during a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey speaks at a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, left, listens to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey speak at a news conference Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Six Philadelphia narcotics officers have been indicted on charges they spent years shaking down drug dealers, using gangland tactics to rob them of cash and drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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By MARYCLAIRE DALE

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Six city narcotics officers used gangland tactics to shake down drug dealers, robbing them of large sums of cash and drugs for years, federal authorities charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The officers once held a suspect over an 18th floor balcony and used a steel bar to beat someone else in the head, authorities said. Another suspect was held captive in a hotel room for several days while he and his family were threatened, they said.

The plan "was to identify suspected drug dealers and use extortionate means or threats to get their money and profits," U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said.

The scheme ran from 2006 to 2012, when Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested. He has since pleaded guilty and cooperated in the two-year probe. Walker and a colleague "stole and distributed a multi-kilo quantity of cocaine, like everyday drug dealers do," Memeger said.

The officers arrested early Wednesday were Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.

Lawyers known to represent some of the defendants did not return calls for comment ahead of their scheduled court appearances Wednesday afternoon, when prosecutors planned to ask that they be held for at least three days until a detention hearing.

Officials said the six will be suspended by the department while police administrators take steps to fire them.

All six had been put on desk duty as the investigation unfolded and District Attorney Seth Williams informed police he would no longer use their testimony in court. Dozens of cases have since been dismissed.

"I took them out of narcotics, but I left them ... on the job," said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who attended a news conference with the U.S. attorney. "I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that investigation."

The charges in the 26-count indictment include racketeering conspiracy, extortion, robbery, kidnapping and drug dealing.

Most of the defendants face at least a seven-year mandatory sentence if convicted.

But the U.S. attorney acknowledged police corruption cases can be difficult to win. He said investigators have to build a rock-solid case before making arrests because "you know that a battle is coming when you get to trial."

Walker pleaded guilty in February to stealing $15,000 from a drug dealer in a plot that also involved planting drugs in his car. His lawyer had said he was cooperating in a wider probe of the drug trafficking unit.

Ramsey has made fighting police corruption a hallmark of his six-year tenure in Philadelphia.

Asked how he might end what has been a series of corruption cases within the narcotics unit, he complained that the police contract bars him from transferring officers between units or making other personnel changes without cause.

FBI Special Agent Edward Hanko, the agency's supervisor in Philadelphia, said the public's "confidence may be shaken, but it should be ... bolstered" by the arrests.




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