Cop caught in drug sting pleads guilty

Posted: April 05, 2011

In a decision that will put him in prison at least five years - and maybe as long as 67 - one of two former Philadelphia police officers caught in an undercover drug sting pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Philadelphia court.

Christopher Luciano, 23, pleaded guilty to all counts of helping accused drug dealers rob a man they thought was a drug courier. Luciano was charged with robbery, conspiracy, kidnapping, official oppression, and possession of a drug with intent to deliver.

Luciano and fellow 25th District officer Sean Alivera, 31, were arrested Oct. 4. Alivera was not brought down from the city's prison complex in the Northeast for Tuesday's hearing, but his lawyer, Gerald Stein, told Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian H. Ransom that he also would plead guilty Wednesday.

Luciano's plea was not the result of a plea bargain, and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Diviny said he would seek a sentence significantly longer than the mandatory minimum five years. Ransom set sentencing for June 7.

Diviny called Luciano a "disgrace" and the case "a tragedy for the Philadelphia Police Department. It makes it much more difficult for the good men and women who are doing their job every day and putting their lives on the line."

Both Diviny and defense attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. declined to comment on whether Luciano might cooperate with prosecutors on police corruption issues.

"He has accepted responsibility for his conduct," Perri said afterward. Perri said Luciano wanted only to finish his prison term, "put this behind him, and get back together with his wife and children."

Luciano, an officer for three years, and Alivera, then on the force 10 years, were assigned to the 25th District, whose tough urban terrain is part North Philadelphia and part Kensington.

According to Diviny, agents of the state Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation heard from an informant last September that an alleged Philadelphia drug dealer named Aaron Harris boasted that some Philadelphia police helped him set up and rob drug couriers.

An undercover BNI agent began the first phase of the sting by getting close to Harris and giving him information about a potential target.

On Oct. 4, Diviny said, that target - an undercover officer from Philadelphia's police Internal Affairs Division - was issued $4,000 in marked bills and a car with 20 pounds of marijuana in the trunk.

At 6 p.m., as surveillance cameras recorded events, Alivera and Luciano's patrol car was seen stopping the "courier" car at Fifth and Cambria Streets without cause.

Diviny said the officers put the courier in the back of their patrol car, and Luciano then opened and looked inside the trunk of the courier vehicle at the duffel bag of marijuana.

Luciano then closed the trunk, and the officers drove off with the courier in the squad car. They stopped about 10 blocks away, Diviny said, and made calls on their cell phones.

While they were gone, Diviny said, a minivan parked behind the courier car, and Harris and a man identified as Timothy Taylor opened the trunk, took the duffel bag, and drove away.

Diviny said Alivera and Luciano then returned to the scene. One drove the courier vehicle and followed the patrol car back to the 25th District station.

As the undercover officer was being processed inside, Diviny said, investigators arrested Alivera and Luciano. Diviny said Alivera had $3,000 of the $4,000 in marked bills hidden in his uniform and vest.

Although the marijuana was not recovered, Harris, 34, and Taylor, 26, were arrested later. Diviny said a trial for them was scheduled for September.


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com

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