Feds: 6 Philly Narcotic Cops Robbed, Kidnapped Drug Dealers - Fox 2 News Headlines

Feds: 6 Philly Narcotic Cops Robbed, Kidnapped Drug Dealers

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PHILADELPHIA -

Six former members of the Philadelphia Police Dept.'s narcotics unit have been federally indicted, charged with using robbery, kidnapping and other tactics to shake down more than a half-million dollars worth of cash, property and drugs from suspected drug dealers.

The 26-count indictment's unsealing was announced during a Wednesday morning news conference.

The former Narcotics Field Unit cops were "abusing their official positions to rob and extort suspected drug dealers and to fabricate police reports, covering up their illegal activities," U.S. District Attorney Zane Memeger said.

They're accused of "engaging in a racketeering conspiracy that included multiple acts of robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and drug-dealing," the local U.S. attorney added.

Charged are Thomas Liciardello, 38, Brian Reynolds, 43, Michael Spicer, 46, Perry Betts, 46, Linwood Norman, 46, and John Speiser, 42.

The police department says the six veteran officers had a combined 120 years of service on the force, 71 of them in narcotics.

Feds say the alleged conspiracy ran from February 2006 until November 2012, and included officers entering and searching suspected drug dealers' homes – sometimes while they were detained in jail cells – or stopping their cars on the road and robbing occupants.

"They routinely used threats, physical violence and used other extortionate means to cause the suspected drug dealers to part ways with their money, property and drugs," Memeger said.

Some of the 22 specific incidents alleged in the indictment include officers punching, kicking or striking suspects with steel pipes, as well as threatening to shoot them or dangling them from balconies. And the cops apparently filed false police reports to conceal their acts.

In all, the officers are accused of nabbing more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and personal property, ranging from business suits and Rolex watches to electronic items.

Among the charges they face are conspiracy, civil rights violations, robbery, extortion, carrying firearms during crimes of violence, falsifying records, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

All six officers are expected in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

Memeger called their conduct "reprehensible."

"More than 6,500 police officers have taken an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Philadelphia. Putting in an honest day's work, these officers risk their lives every day in an effort to keep the streets of Philadelphia safe," Memeger said. "Unfortunately, a very small minority of police officers continue to toss their oath aside and act like the very criminals they have sworn to protect, sworn to bring to justice."

FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser was first to report early Wednesday morning that five of the officers had been taken into custody in Philadelphia, while one was arrested at a Jersey Shore home.

Back on Jan. 6, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced a federal grand jury and transferred the officers. They've been on desk duty ever since, and hundreds of drug cases have been dismissed.

Former Officer Jeffrey Walker, who is charged elsewhere, already pleaded guilty in February to attempted robbery and gun charges in February. His lawyer said he was cooperating.

Walker was caught in a sting last year when he allegedly stole cash from a drug suspect as FBI agents watched. He was arrested on the spot.

The new charges against six more officers stem from a two-year investigation by the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Dept.'s Internal Affairs Division, and some of the information in this case may be coming from a former narcotics officer, sources tell Schratwieser.

Ramsey reacted to the indictment this way: "I can say that I've been a police officer for more than 40 years, and this is one of the worst cases of corruption that I have ever heard. We are moving, obviously, to suspend for 30 days with intent to dismiss each and every one of the police officers named in this indictment. The paperwork is being drawn up as I speak, and as soon as we can serve them with the paperwork it will be done."

Shaking his head, Ramsey added, "Words just don't describe the degree in which this has brought discredit upon not only these individual officers but their families, the police department, the entire city and the profession of policing. Conduct like this is simply unacceptable, cannot be tolerated and is inexcusable. … This was a malignancy inside our department, and today it was removed. And, hopefully, through prosecution, they will receive the maximum sentences allowed by law."

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement that his office was notified two years ago by the police department "that, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, it would no longer rely on testimony from Officers Liciardello, Reynolds, Spicer, Betts, and Speiser."

"As a result, there are no open active cases involving these officers," Williams' statement says.

The D.A.'s office is also now reviewing cases that involved the sixth officer, Norman, and stated: "Now that the federal investigation has been completed, the District Attorney's Office will review previous convictions involving the six officers and will take appropriate action. When a decision is made on these cases the District Attorney’s Office will notify the public and the press."

We'll have more details during live reports on tonight's FOX 29 News.

WATCH LIVE ON ANY DEVICE: FOX 29 News At 5, 6 & 10
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