Philly cop charged with selling heroin

Officer Jonathan Garcia
Officer Jonathan Garcia
Posted: June 21, 2012

UPDATE: An allegedly rogue Philadelphia police officer indicted Wednesday on federal drug and gun charges could soon face new charges.

THE IDEA to start selling heroin apparently wasn't dumb enough in the mind of young Philly cop Jonathan Garcia.

The 23-year-old had to go and do it on duty.

In uniform.

Across the street from the district headquarters where he was assigned in Point Breeze.

That's the way federal authorities tell it in an arrest affidavit that paints Garcia as a small-time heroin dealer leading a double life. The three-year veteran sometimes met with a confidential FBI informant near the 17th Police District building to sell him packets of the brown powder stamped with names like "Lacoste," "D&G" and "pussy cat," the affidavit said.

Garcia was arrested by the FBI Tuesday night at his house on Sedgley Avenue near K Street in Kensington and he was charged Wednesday with four counts of distributing heroin and two counts of carrying a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime. The firearm was the department-issued Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol that Garcia had tucked into its holster.

Garcia is at least the 43rd Philadelphia police officer to be charged criminally since 2009, including 10 for alleged drug offenses.

On Wednesday, Garcia appeared in green prison jumpers before U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Center City pending a bail hearing on Friday. Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said he would suspend Garcia for 30 days with intent to dismiss.

Speaking for Ramsey, who was unavailable for comment, Lt. Ray Evers said: "He's not happy and neither are the men and women who work for this department. It's a disgrace."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Brenner said Garcia is a threat to the community, and the feds will seek his pretrial detention. Authorities say the investigation is continuing.

But defense attorney Scott DiClaudio said he would seek release on bail or house arrest.

"He's never been accused of any crime before this. There's no allegation of any violence," said DiClaudio, who added that his client has denied the charges. "He's not a threat to the community or a flight risk."

The arrest affidavit does not indicate how Garcia initially hooked up with the informant, but it alleges numerous meetings between them.

Garcia allegedly sold bundles with 14 individually wrapped packets of heroin to the source on two occasions in April and May, according to the affidavit.

After the first incident, the source reportedly attempted to sell the heroin to another person, who said that the quality was bad. The source returned 13 of the 14 bags to Garcia, according to the FBI affidavit. In the second incident, Garcia allegedly sold the source two bundles of heroin stamped "pussy cat."

Based on those alleged transactions, the FBI began surveilling Garcia and recorded conversations he had with the informant, who was outfitted with a wire, the arrest affidavit said.

On May 7 Garcia was off duty when he allegedly met the informant on the platform of the Berks Street El station, where the informant paid Garcia $200 in FBI funds for heroin he had gotten earlier and asked about getting more heroin.

Three days later, on May 10, the informant and Garcia met at the Tioga Street El station, during which the informant gave Garcia $200 for two bundles of heroin. The arrest affidavit said FBI agents observed the meeting.

Then, Garcia became more brazen and asked the informant to meet him at the 17th District on 20th Street near Federal while he was on duty, according to court documents.

On May 16, Garcia, while in uniform, walked out of the building about 4 p.m. — just before roll call — and met the informant outside. As FBI agents watched, Garcia and the informant, who was wearing a wire, walked the short distance to Garcia's black Toyota Corolla. Garcia opened the trunk and threw two bundles of heroin inside, court papers say. He then allegedly told the informant to toss $200 into the trunk and pick up the drugs.

The recording captured the informant asking Garcia if it's "the same kind," which Garcia acknowledged before telling the informant to "throw the money in there," then shutting the trunk. After the meeting, Garcia walked back across the street to return to work.

Later, the informant turned over 28 blue glassine packets stamped with the word "Lacoste" and a picture of an alligator that contained a light-brown powdery substance that authorities said tested positive for heroin.

On June 5, Garcia met the informant again while on duty, this time at 19th and Manton streets, the arrest affidavit said. Garcia allegedly handed the informant 46 blue glassine folds stamped "D&G" and the informant forked over $440 in FBI cash. The packets later tested positive for heroin, authorities said.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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