State police probe their drug bureau

May 04, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

In the wake of claims of police misconduct during the drug investigation of The Block, the state police are conducting a financial audit and broad internal review of their 4-year-old drug enforcement bureau.

State police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver ordered the review after reports that three undercover troopers assigned to the investigation of The Block had liaisons with women in the nude dance clubs they were assigned to investigate.

"Because of the allegations of impropriety, I've started going through our drug bureau," Colonel Tolliver said. "If we find anything wrong, we'll take action."

The state police staff inspection unit is examining the Bureau of Drug Enforcement, including the activities of the squad of undercover officers assigned to the four-month probe of drug peddling and prostitution on The Block.

Staff inspectors are examining several aspects of the 187-employee drug bureau, including how drug buys are documented, how evidence is logged, how money to buy drugs is recorded and distributed, how much money undercover officers spend and how they account for that cash.

The staff inspection report should determine whether the drug bureau is following department procedures and guidelines, whether proper financial controls are being used and whether any internal guidelines should be revised, said Lt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

The report also should determine how much money the drug bureauspent to investigate and raid the bars along East Baltimore Street.

State police reported this year that undercover troopers spent about $201,000 to conduct the investigation, not including the salaries of the dozen or so troopers assigned to the probe.

The department said it spent an additional $165,000 to pay for the Jan. 14 raid, which involved nearly 500 troopers summoned from posts around the state. That figure includes salaries, overtime expenses, food and rental vehicles.

Lieutenant Shipley said it was too early to tell whether the total spent on the investigation -- $366,000 -- will change. "They're still conducting the audit," he said.

The staff inspection review was ordered after The Sun's March 15 report on the investigation and raid. The Sun reported that three state police troopers had liaisons with women on The Block and that the investigation's criminal cases were beset by problems -- including claims that drug evidence had been seized improperly.

On Monday, the Baltimore state's attorney's office dropped half of the 74 drug cases that came to court. The cases were tainted by improperly obtained evidence and the misconduct claims against the troopers, prosecutors told the state police in a letter.

Three troopers are under investigation by state police internal affairs officers.

Two were undercover drug agents during the probe of The Block. Witnesses say Sgt. Warren Rineker spent the night in a hotel with a barmaid who is married to the owner of a Block bar and that Trooper Gary Manos gave a club dancer a $100 tip to have sex with a colleague, Trooper Gus Economides. Trooper Economides, who provided surveillance for the drug investigation, paid $150 to have sex with the dancer in a basement room in one of the bars, witnesses said.

The internal investigation into the officers' conduct began in March. State police administrators say they aren't sure when it will end.

Colonel Tolliver said he isn't sure what information, if any, he will release to the public when the investigations are complete. He said he will discipline the officers if the claims of wrongdoing are substantiated.

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