Did cop cross the line again?

Brothers Harry (left) and Chris Riebow were arrested by Cujdik and other officers on drug charges. They say they were set up.
Brothers Harry (left) and Chris Riebow were arrested by Cujdik and other officers on drug charges. They say they were set up.
Posted: March 05, 2009

WHEN Officer Jeffrey Cujdik learned that one of his informants, Tiffany Gorham, was arrested on robbery and aggravated-assault charges last year, he provided cash to bail her out of jail, Gorham's mother has told the Daily News.

"He stopped here and dropped the money off," Michele "Mickey" Gorham, 51, said.

Cujdik showed up at her East Frankford house the day after her daughter's March 2008 arrest, and handed her $300 in cash, the amount needed to bail her out, Gorham said.

Four months later, Cujdik conducted a drug raid at the home of two brothers, who believe that the raid was an act of revenge because Tiffany Gorham had been jilted by one of the brothers.

These allegations, if true, raise more questions about Cujdik's relationship with his informants.

A Daily News report last month detailed allegations that Cujdik improperly rented a house to another informant, Ventura Martinez, and lied in search-warrant applications used to enter suspected drug homes.

The newspaper series prompted federal and local authorities to form a special task force to investigate. Cujdik, 34, was placed on desk duty and was forced to return his police-issued weapon.

In an exclusive interview, Martinez said that he paid Cujdik at least $20,000 in rent money that he had earned as an informant working with Cujdik. The Police Department pays informants to make drug buys and for tips leading to gun and drug arrests.

Under police rules, however, officers must maintain a strictly professional relationship with informants. Like the alleged house rental, providing cash to bail out an informant would "cross the line," said a high-ranking police source.

"That would not be ethical," the source said.

Cujdik's attorney, George Bochetto, said that Gorham's mother was lying about the bail and that Cujdik would be "completely vindicated."

"Officer Cujdik is an honest, decorated police officer who has consistently operated by the letter of the law," Bochetto wrote in response to a reporter's questions yesterday.

Tiffany Gorham, 28, became an informant for Cujdik in January 2008, according to a police source. Gorham - known as "CI #371" - was involved in only a few cases, court records show.

On March 8, just two months after she began working with Cujdik, Gorham was arrested for allegedly striking a man with a glass bottle and a metal object, injuring him and stealing $250 and a necklace, court records show.

Seven months later, prosecutors withdrew the charges because the victim failed to show up in court to testify.

A few months after Gorham made bail, Cujdik, along with Officer Thomas Kuhn, used Gorham to buy marijuana from Harry and Chris Riebow, brothers who live with their grandmother in Juniata Park, court records show.

According to the search-warrant application, Gorham told Cujdik that the brothers stored guns and sold marijuana, cocaine and PCP at the Neilson Street house.

On July 31, 2008, according to the search warrant, Cujdik and Kuhn watched as both brothers "greeted" Gorham on their front porch. All three went inside. Gorham gave Harry Riebow money for marijuana, while Chris Riebow went upstairs to get the marijuana from a rear bedroom, the warrant says.

The next day, Cujdik and other officers with the Narcotics Field Unit raided the house and found 23 grams of marijuana - less than an ounce - and a loaded handgun in Chris Riebow's bedroom.

But the brothers claim that Gorham set them up.

In separate interviews last week, Harry and Chris Riebow said that they hadn't sold marijuana to Gorham. In fact, the brothers and their grandmother say that no one was even home on the afternoon of the alleged drug buy.

Officer Kuhn did not return a phone call from the

Daily News.

So why would the Riebows be targeted? Perhaps because Gorham had lived with them and recently had been kicked out, they said. Harry Riebow said that he had dated Gorham and secretly allowed her and her two children to live in his grandmother's basement.

About a week before Cujdik raided the house, the Riebows' grandmother discovered Gor-ham's two young children alone in her basement and ordered

Harry to kick Gorham and the children out. The grandmother, who requested anonymity, said that she tossed all of Gorham's clothes out of her house.

The grandmother said that she believes that Gorham overheard her tell Harry to not "let that little bitch back in my house ever again," and that prompted Gorham to seek revenge.

During the raid, Cujdik picked up welfare and medical forms that Gorham had left behind on the dining-room table, according to the grandmother.

"He said, 'They don't belong here,' " said the grandmother, 77.

In a brief conversation last week, Gorham told a Daily News reporter that she had not made the drug buy that was the basis of the search warrant. She described Harry as a "friend." She later refused to answer any more questions and struck a reporter twice in the face, threatening to kill her.

Bochetto, Cujdik's attorney, said that Gorham is "lying out of fear of being publicly outed as an informant by your newspaper."

Bochetto added: "This is the Daily News' version of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Dredge up these low-life informants, scare the hell out of them by threatening to expose their identities so that the drug dealers can kill them, then gleefully publish their lies to sell more newspapers."

Gorham's allegation about the Riebow case mirrors those made by another Cujdik informant, Ventura Martinez.

Martinez alleges that Cujdik sometimes listed him on applications for search warrants as having bought drugs from houses where he hadn't made a buy.

Guy R. Sciolla, an attorney representing Chris Riebow, said that the brothers complained to him about Cujdik and his connection to Gorham two weeks before the Daily News article about Martinez was published last month.

"It's not like they're piling on," Sciolla said. "This is a story they've been telling since jump, and, frankly I didn't know anything about Cujdik until your article hit."

Chris Riebow, 27, is charged with drug dealing and gun possession. He told the Daily News that the handgun belonged to his deceased father and that he had bought it as protection after Chris' fiancee was shot and killed in 2006. Harry Riebow, 28, faces drug charges. Their case is scheduled for a March 17 trial.

The brothers deny selling drugs out of their grandmother's house, but they're not strangers to Philly cops. Excluding their most recent arrests, Harry Riebow has been arrested three times since 2001 on charges that include theft and aggravated assault; those charges didn't stick.

Chris Riebow pleaded guilty to drug dealing and criminal conspiracy in 2004 and was sentenced to four years' probation. He also got a year's probation for a 2004 DUI conviction, court records show.

Mickey Gorham, Gorham's mom, said that she was "shocked" when Cujdik showed up at her house to give her bail money for her daughter because "he put my old man in jail."

In December 2006, Cujdik raided the house she lived in with her family in Kensington.

Police say that they found more than a pound of marijuana and arrested her husband, Daniel Gorham, who is Tiffany Gorham's father.

Daniel Gorham, 54, is now serving a two-to-four-year sentence.

Bochetto said that Mickey Gorham concocted the story about the bail money as a strategy to get her husband out of jail.

But Gorham's possible freedom isn't likely to hinge on whether Cujdik provided money for Tiffany's bail. Daniel Gorham's case is one of hundreds being scrutinized by investigators because Cujdik was the arresting officer and Martinez was the informant.

According to a search-warrant application prepared by Cujdik, Martinez bought a small amount of marijuana from Daniel Gorham on Dec. 13, 2006. Martinez, however, recently told the Daily News that he had never heard of Daniel Gorham's case and hadn't bought drugs from him.

Cujdik sometimes put Martinez's informant number - "#103" - on search warrants connected to drug and gun cases with a potential big payoff, Martinez alleged.

Cujdik sometimes instructed Martinez to sign police pay vouchers for jobs he didn't do, Martinez alleged. Some of the informant cash went to Cujdik for rent on a Kensington house that Martinez and his family leased from Cujdik from September 2005 to Jan. 30 of this year, Martinez said.

"I'm telling you, he used to come up and say, 'Here, sign this voucher.' He always used to make me sign a lot of vouchers when it was near rent time," said Martinez, who speculated that he likely got paid about $300 for the Daniel Gorham job, which he claims he didn't do.

Cujdik deactivated Martinez as an informant last Dec. 4. He deactivated Tiffany Gorham later that same month, a police source said.

The reason cited by Cujdik for deactivating Gorham, the source said: Too many traffic violations. *

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