Three cops free on bail to await drug-heist trial

Posted: July 21, 2010

Three Philadelphia police officers who were charged last week in a plot to steal heroin and sell it were ordered to be released on bail yesterday pending trial.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said that officers Mark Williams, James Venziale and Robert Snyder would be under 24-hour house arrest with electronic monitoring at their homes or homes of relatives and would be permitted to leave only to meet with their lawyers, attend religious services or visit a doctor.

The officers will not be released until family members put up their homes as collateral for their bail, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski had ordered on Friday that the men could be freed on bail with conditions, but federal prosecutors appealed the ruling to Bartle, who held a hearing Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathy Stark argued that the officers were a danger to the community and might try to intimidate witnesses or commit other crimes if not locked up.

But Bartle ruled that by confining the officers to their homes or those of family around the clock, they "will not be able to mingle with the community at large" or try to resume their jobs as police officers.

Williams, 26, Venziale, 31, and Snyder, 29, have been suspended from the police force with intent to dismiss.

Authorities said that Williams and Venziale, of the 39th District, headquartered at 22nd Street and Hunting Park Avenue, and Snyder, of the 25th District, at Whitaker Avenue near Luzerne Street, stole 300 grams of heroin from a drug supplier in exchange for $10,000 cash.

Prosecutors said Monday that they plan to seek additional charges against the officers after it was revealed that Williams, Snyder and accused drug dealer Angel Ortiz allegedly planned a second robbery on July 9, just days before they were arrested. (Venziale was not involved in that planned robbery, authorities said.)

A government filing said that they were going to make a "fake vehicle stop" and rob a man they believed to be involved with illegal gambling but who was really an undercover agent. They allegedly discussed providing a doctored property receipt to make it appear as if the money had been seized.

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