Alleged ringleader of rogue narcotics squad denied bail

Thomas Liciardello has been portrayed as the ringleader.
Thomas Liciardello has been portrayed as the ringleader.
Posted: August 15, 2014

The purported ringleader of what authorities have described as a rogue group of Philadelphia narcotics officers will remain behind bars pending his trial, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno, came a day after a hearing in which federal authorities detailed a series of incidents in which Officer Thomas Liciardello, 38, allegedly outed informants and threatened those who spoke out against them.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek cited the incidents as examples of the danger Liciardello would pose to government witnesses should he be released on bail.

The list of Liciardello's alleged targets included Michael Pileggi, a lawyer who has filed several civil-rights lawsuits on behalf of drug suspects who accused members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit of fabricating evidence against them.

Confronting Pileggi after a deposition in one of those suits, Liciardello told the lawyer he was surprised to see that he was still alive, FBI agent Joseph Balestrieri testified Tuesday.

Liciardello "said that the day the lawyer died, he would be there," the agent said.

Michael Cascioli, a convicted drug dealer who has accused two narcotics officers of holding him over an 18th-floor balcony under direction from Liciardello, also told federal authorities that Liciardello later exposed him as an informant, Balestrieri said.

Cascioli gave up his drug supplier during the 2007 raid that led to his arrest.

The man was detained hours later. As Liciardello walked Cascioli to a waiting police cruiser, they passed the supplier, Balestrieri told the court, and the officer said, "This is your snitch. This is the guy that gave you up."

Liciardello's lawyer, Jeffrey Miller, scoffed at the notion that prosecutors would believe the word of a convicted drug dealer like Cascioli over that of his client.

He also pointed out that his client had sued Pileggi for harassment and for filing baseless cases against him, a case Pileggi later settled.

Robreno's decision to keep Liciardello in custody ends a series of hearings that the judge has held over the last two weeks for the six narcotics officers charged in the case.

All of Liciardello's codefendants have been released on house arrest with the condition that they have no contact with any current or former police officers.

The six officers face charges of conspiracy, robbery, and extortion. They stand accused of beating suspected drug dealers, stealing their money and property, and fabricating police reports to cover their crimes over a period of six years.

All have maintained their innocence.


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-925-2649

@jeremyrroebuck

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