This week, a couple stories that should cause anyone critically thinking to see that those wearing badges aren’t always operating with the best intentions.
Ex-Middlesex Sheriff Pleads Guilty in Bribery Plot
Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo and two men who worked under him have admitted their roles in a jobs-for-cash bribery scheme that operated out of the sheriff’s office.
Spicuzzo pleaded guilty this past week to a bribery charge. In return, acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said prosecutors would recommend that the former sheriff receive a nine-year state prison term.
The 67-year-old Helmetta resident also will forfeit his entire state pension and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Former sheriff’s investigator Darrin DiBiasi and former sheriff’s officer Paul Lucarelli pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant. Prosecutors will recommend they each receive probation and a county jail term of up to 364 days.
“Spicuzzo’s long years in power corrupted him,” Hoffman said. “It’s hard to fathom the greed and arrogance that would prompt a law enforcement leader to demand bribes of young recruits.”
Prosecutors say the scheme operated between March 1996 and November 2008. Spicuzzo demanded that eight people pay him bribes in return for him appointing them as new sheriff’s investigators or promoting them within the office.
The state investigation determined that Spicuzzo directly or indirectly solicited and accepted individual bribes ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 from seven individuals seeking to be hired as investigators.
Those individuals included DiBiasi, who paid a $5,000 bribe prior to being hired in 1999.
Spicuzzo also took bribes of $5,000 and $7,000 from a sheriff’s officer in return for two promotions within the sheriff’s office between 2007-2008. Each person who paid a bribe got the promised position.
DiBiasi collected three bribes from individuals seeking investigator positions and delivered them to Spicuzzo.
Lucarelli collected a bribe of approximately $25,000 from someone seeking an investigator position and gave it to Spicuzzo in 2008.
Botched 2006 Latin Kings Investigation Results in Second Settlement
In other news, in addition to a $260,000 settlement from the city of Tampa, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay a total of $215,000 to 10 victims of a botched gang roundup.
In 2006, more than 100 officers raided the Caribbean American Club, arresting 52 on racketeering charges. Most accepted plea deals for probation.
Then in 2008, the case unraveled. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet threw out charges against 23 people after learning that many of the supposed Latin King gang members were bullied into going to the meeting by Luis “Danny” Agosto, a felon turned confidential informant for the FBI and Tampa police.
The judge heard testimony that investigators did nothing to stop Agosto from threatening people to attend the meeting, stealing motorcycles, driving without a license and carrying a gun — even though he was a felon. The gang had been dormant for several months before law enforcement encouraged Agosto to revive its meetings, the judge determined.
A handful of the former suspects filed a federal lawsuit, alleging false arrest and violations of their civil rights. One man said his months in jail caused depression and the end of his marriage.
That’s this week’s Police Accountability Report brought to you by CopBlock.org.
Until next week, stay safe and remember that badges don’t grant extra rights!