2 more narcotics officers off street in light of misconduct probe

Posted: April 15, 2009

Two more narcotics officers have been placed on desk duty as FBI and local investigators delve deeper into allegations of police misconduct.

Officers Robert McDonnell and Richard Cujdik, both veterans of the Narcotics Field Unit, were recently removed from the street, though they retain their department-issued guns and police powers, Internal Affairs Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua said yesterday.

The officers' removal comes in the wake of the Daily News series "Tainted Justice," which began in February with allegations that Officer Jeffrey Cujdik, Richard's brother, lied on search warrants to get into targeted drug homes, and got too close to his informants.

Jeffrey Cujdik then became the focus of a federal-local task force, and he was placed on desk duty and forced to give up his police powers and service weapon.

The investigation widened after the Daily News reported allegations leveled by 15 store owners that the Cujdik brothers and officers who worked with them destroyed or cut wires to surveillance cameras during raids for drug paraphernalia, specifically little ziplock bags. Once the cameras were disabled, thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise went missing, the store owners alleged.

Richard Cujdik led a Sept. 11, 2007, raid of a West Oak Lane grocery store owned by Jose Duran. The officers used their bare hands, pliers and a bread knife from the store deli to cut camera wires, but didn't realize that Duran had a hidden backup hard drive that captured part of the raid.

The video, obtained by the Daily News and viewable on philly.com, shows Richard Cujdik searching Duran's van, apparently without a search warrant. Duran alleges that the officers seized about $10,000 in the raid, but in police paperwork documented taking only $785.

McDonnell, who worked closely with Jeffrey Cujdik, did not take part in the store raid. But McDonnell is linked to search warrants that are now in question.

For example, Jeffrey Cujdik wrote in an August 2007 search-warrant application that he and McDonnell watched a confidential informant buy marijuana from a North Philadelphia drug suspect known as "Pooh Bear." The informant, Ventura Martinez, told the Daily News that he'd never heard of "Pooh Bear" and didn't make the buy. In late February, federal prosecutors withdrew their case against the suspect.

Shortly afterward, McDonnell was taken off the street and put behind a desk at narcotics headquarters.

Last week, Richard Cujdik was transferred to the 15th Police District, at Harbison and Levick streets, where he is doing desk and phone work, DiLacqua said.

When asked why these three officers were singled out, DiLacqua said, "That's where the investigation led us." He declined to elaborate.

None of the officers has been charged with any wrongdoing. Jeffrey Cujdik's attorney has said that the allegations are untrue. Richard Cujdik did not return a phone call last night. McDonnell has repeatedly declined comment.

Meanwhile, Assistant Public Defender Bradley S. Bridge has challenged 53 drug convictions so far, citing the Daily News reports in court papers. *

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