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Lawyer Finally Had To Act On Bad-Cop Stories

The ragged road to yesterday's drug cop arrests was paved in 1999 when
Edward Sapiano's file of complaints against police began to get thicker and
thicker. For years, Sapiano had been told by clients and other defence
lawyers that cops had stolen money and jewelry.

But Sapiano and others had often let it pass.

"One story every now and again, there's not much you can do ... It's your
drug-dealing client's word against an officer," Sapiano said in an interview.

Because he shared his police file -- dubbed Police Information Gathering
System (PIGS) -- with other lawyers and media, Sapiano had for years been a
hub of new information.

In 1999, the once-infrequent complaints were reaching his ears once or
twice a week.

"We were having an increase in incidents of alleged thefts of monies and
valuables ... and the same names kept arising."

In agreement with 10 other lawyers with client complaints, Sapiano sent a
letter to internal affairs Det. Sgt. Randy Franks April 13, 1999, outlining
his complaints.

"I am sure that once you and your people consider all the ramifications of
these allegations -- if true -- you will agree that this is perhaps one of
the most serious allegations of ongoing misconduct ever made against
(Toronto Police).

"Over the past 12 months or so, I have been approached with greater and
greater frequency by lawyers who inform me that one or more of their
clients are claiming that when certain police officers arrested them,
and/or executed a search warrant at their residence, the police stole money."

Sapiano related many clients wouldn't give their names out of fear that
word would get back to the cops.

Among the names Sapiano said had commonly come up were Det.-Sgt. John
Schertzer, Steve Correia, Ray Pollard, Rick Benoit and one other.

Four of the five were charged yesterday.

"I am of the view that what is happening is that this and perhaps other
drug squads have commenced the practice of routinely stealing money ...
from the homes and people they search, confident in the knowledge that the
victims will either not report the stolen property, or will have zero
credibility," Sapiano wrote.

Notable lawyers who signed the complaint included Clayton Ruby and Alan Gold.

The internal affairs office of Toronto Police was apparently willing, but
not ready, to probe such a big case. With only eight detectives on staff,
they were already overwhelmed.

Sapiano and Ruby begged internal affairs to stage a sting because without
it, judges would not believe a drug dealer over a cop.

From the start, the probe ran into problems. Franks and his colleague,
Marie Greer, realized that Schertzer's team had boasted a steady stream of
arrests for years. Team 3 was regarded as the hardest-working drug squad in
the entire city.

Yet internal affairs had such a small budget there was no cash for a sting,
nor overtime and manpower for a big review.

After Julian Fantino became chief in 1999, he became aware of the drug
squad allegations and became worried.

When internal detectives advised Fantino they had found apparent lies on
drug squad warrants, Fantino wanted to act.

But the catalyst for the creation of the 25-man RCMP-led special task force
appears to have been the bizarre case of Kai Sum (Simon) Yeung.

Yeung was released from Collins Bay prison in July 2001 after serving 18
months of a 45-month sentence for drug trafficking. He was freed after
launching a wrongful conviction appeal that prosecutors advised him to go
ahead with.

An affidavit filed by Franks and subsequent affidavits filed by task force
head RCMP Chief Supt. John Neily remain sealed at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

A $1.7-million lawsuit filed by Yeung has since been settled out of court
by city lawyers for an undisclosed amount.

When announcing that Neily would head an "independent" probe into the drug
squad allegations in late 2001, Fantino said he had no choice.

"If I didn't do this, I would be negligent and wilfully blind," Fantino said.

Former Toronto Police Association head Craig Bromell said Fantino's use of
the RCMP is an insult to the force and suggested Fantino has lost faith in
his own Internal Affairs team.

Bromell accused Fantino of holding "a witch hunt" that will keep "digging
and digging" until something turns up.

"More drug dealers will be working the street by the end of this month and
I hope he's proud of that," Bromell charged.

At the time, several drug squad officers had been charged with theft, fraud
and forgery by Internal Affairs.

Neily, a hard-nosed administrator who formerly headed a joint-forces
Eastern European Organized Crime Task Force and commanded RCMP detachments
at Pearson airport and Milton, had a meteoric rise from inspector in late
1999. Some RCMP insiders tip him as a future RCMP commissioner.

With Fantino's blessing, Neily handpicked a team of roughly 25 Toronto
detectives to make up his so-called professional standards special task force.

For the past two years, the secretive squad has ran its operations out of
an office at 951 Wilson Ave. W., using an outdated, or old, lawyer's sign
as a cover.

Neily told a media briefing yesterday that in those two years the task
force had sifted through hundreds of thousands of papers and interviewed
about 400 witnesses.

He stressed his probe was "not an RCMP probe," but was mainly comprised of
"seasoned Toronto investigators."

Since Sapiano made the complaint in 1999, more cases of alleged drug squad
abuses and thefts were raised.

Two high-profile criminal cases raised allegations against drug squad teams
other than Schertzer's Team 3.

Charges were ultimately stayed in both cases.

Neily admitted yesterday that his probe did not delve into other drug squad
teams, but mainly focused on Schertzer's.

He said the charges were picked for prosecution because they had both a
reasonable prospect of conviction and were in the public interest.

Sources say hundreds of other cases were checked out and while not pursued
with charges, more than a score were considered on their face to have
serious problem areas.

- ---

OFFICERS CHARGED

JOHN SCHERTZER

A macho street cop who was named "Boss John" by street-level drug dealers,
Schertzer, 46, had aspired to be a cop since he was five years old and
joined Toronto Police in 1975 as a 17-year-old cadet.

A father of three, Schertzer met his police officer wife, Joyce, 42, when
the two worked at 11 Division.

Schertzer alleges in a $116-million statement of claim that he and seven
other officers filed against RCMP and Toronto Police brass that Chief
Julian Fantino has led a "vicious crusade" against him.

Schertzer headed 11 Division Major Crime Unit prior to his transfer to
Central Field Command.

STEVE CORREIA

The Scarborough-born Correia, 36, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his
grandfather, who was a cop in Portugal.

Married to Susan Correia, who is also employed by Toronto Police, Correia
was known as Schertzer's "right-hand-man" in the Team 3 drug squad.

Correia considers himself a close pal of Reid, Forestall and Miched.

In a $116-million lawsuit, Correia said he assumed his home telephone was
tapped and was even concerned about talking to Susan in their house.

Correia boasts an "exemplary" service record.

RAY POLLARD

Pollard, 39, always wanted to be a cop just like his dad, a highly
respected fraud squad detective.

After joining Toronto Police upon graduation from high school, Pollard, who
is married with a son and daughter, attended York University and obtained a
BA, majoring in economics and minoring in law.

Pollard boasts an "exemplary service record."

During his two years in the Central Field Command drug squad, Pollard
became the only road boss to co-ordinate a project with all four of the
squad's crews.

RICHARD BENOIT

Benoit is reputedly a go-to man who acts every bit the seasoned street cop.

He is also known as a talker.

Benoit's placement in the Emergency Task Force unit amid the startup of the
RCMP-led probe raised many eyebrows.

At the same time he was at the ETF, many of his former drug squad
colleagues were assigned to desk duty.

Benoit was a key eyewitness against a protagonist in the Vivi Lemonis
murder at the Just Desserts cafe.

NED MAODUS

Prior to his arrest on 13 charges yesterday, the Windsor-born Maodus, 40,
was facing other charges in three separate criminal cases.

The father of three was charged with sexual assault, assault causing bodily
harm, two assaults, uttering threats and weapons offences after his arrest
at his Orangeville-area home March 21, 2002.

On Monday, the RCMP charged him with possessing cocaine and heroin for the
purposes of trafficking and Ecstasy possession.

He was also charged Nov. 17 with assaulting a Windsor cop in a dispute over
bail conditions.

JOSEPH MICHED

After working for 25 years at the job he had dreamed of having, Miched
suddenly quit the force Oct. 2 and now works as a car salesman in Whitby.

Sources say that prior to his retirement, Miched was emotionally devastated
and went on sick leave after Neily's RCMP team tried a secretive undercover
sting.

Miched, 45, is married with two kids.

He alleges in the $116-million civil suit that he had a reputation for
"diligence, integrity and intelligence," but his career was "destroyed" by
a faulty and unprofessional investigation.

Unindicted Co-Conspirators

JONATHAN REID

The 37-year-old states in the $116-million lawsuit that "being a police
officer is not a job, but a profession, or a calling."

Boasting an "exemplary record of service," Reid states that despite "the
abuse" related to the internal affairs and RCMP-led probes, he still
"remains committed" to the service.

JASON KONDO

After a brief drug squad stint, he most recently won kudos as a key member
of the hold-up squad.

While Kondo has reputedly distinguished himself well, a search of the
Quicklaw database shows that he was admonished by a judge in August 2003
for an "intentional attempt to influence the testimony" of a witness.

GREGORY FORESTALL

Forestall, 41, was born in Brantford and raised in Hamilton. After
graduating from Mohawk College in construction engineering, he joined
Toronto Police in 1987, starting in 11 Division uniform patrol.

In 1991, he began working with 11 Division major crime unit alongside many
of his co-accused.

MIKE TURNBULL

The only black officer who served at Central Field Command, Turnbull served
only a short term with the Schertzer crew and was considered a bit player.

Turnbull, who is in his late 30s, is now working at 11 Division.


Pubdate: Thu, 08 Jan 2004
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact: editor@sunpub.com
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