By Maryclaire Dale
Three Philadelphia police officers plotted with drug dealers and staged a traffic stop and drug seizure in a scheme to steal $15,000 worth of heroin from a supplier and sell it, federal authorities charged.
Officers Mark Williams, James Venziale and Robert Snyder were named in a 14-count indictment announced last Tuesday, along with Snyder’s wife and three suspected drug dealers. The plan went awry when the officers tried to sell the 300 grams of heroin through an undercover federal agent, Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Gibson said.
The police officers and two alleged drug dealers were arrested this week, along with Snyder’s wife, Christal. All but the wife were being held pending detention hearings later this week, prosecutors said. It was not immediately clear if the officers had lawyers.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he would quickly begin the process of terminating them.
“Those three are history,” Ramsey said.
In May, Williams and Venziale staged a traffic stop of co-defendant Angel Ortiz after Ortiz obtained heroin from a supplier on credit, authorities said. With the supplier’s courier looking on, the officers appeared to arrest Ortiz, who was allegedly in on the scheme, and seize the drugs, Gibson said. Ortiz paid those two officers $6,000 for their help and an unidentified amount to Snyder’s wife, the indictment said.
The group then tried to sell the heroin through the undercover agent, prosecutors say.
According to the indictment, Christal Snyder served as a conduit, passing information by phone and text between the officers and the alleged dealers, Ortiz and co-defendant Zachary Young.
The FBI was still looking Tuesday for the alleged supplier, 39-year-old Miguel Santiago of Philadelphia, on drug charges. The intended victim of the alleged robbery, Santiago is the lone defendant not charged with conspiracy.
The officers were assigned to police districts in North Philadelphia and had between four and nine years on the force.
”We do not employ criminals. That’s what they are. That’s how they’ll be treated,” Mayor Michael Nutter said at a news conference.
The Drug Enforcement Administration initiated the investigation based on evidence agents had gathered.
FOP President John McNesby said the police union will not challenge the termination efforts.
“This is an airtight case,” he said. ”It casts a dark cloud over all the officers trying to do a good job, out there risking their lives every day.”