3 officers had illicit liaisons, inquiry finds

July 02, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

An internal investigation by Maryland State Police has found that three undercover troopers had liaisons with women in Block bars they were supposed to be investigating, the agency announced yesterday.

Internal affairs officers found enough evidence to support the misconduct claims -- that the troopers compromised their status while investigating drug dealers and prostitutes in nude dance bars in downtown Baltimore, authorities said.

State police supervisors will review the findings in the cases involving Cpl. Gus Economides and Cpl. Gary Manos, draw up administrative charges and schedule hearings to determine whether the troopers should be disciplined or even fired, said Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, state police spokesman. Charges against Sgt. Warren Rineker will not be pursued because he has resigned, the spokesman said.

"The report is being reviewed by the bureau chief, and then the charges will be drawn up and placed against the officers," he said.

He did not know what charges would be filed. The two troopers could be charged with conduct unbecoming officers or other violations of agency guidelines, including a provision that prohibits troopers from having sex with vice probe targets.

The claims against the three undercover drug officers surfaced shortly after 500 state police troopers descended on The Block Jan. 14 and stormed the nude dance bars on East Baltimore Street.

Several bar employees told The Sun that they witnessed improprieties on the part of several undercover troopers assigned to the investigation. In one episode in December, the employees said, two troopers were involved in a sex-for-money deal in one of the bars.

Witnesses claimed that Corporal Economides paid $150 to have sex with dancer Jodi Lyn Waibel, 23. His partner, Corporal Manos, then paid Ms. Waibel a $100 tip.

The dancer said she had sex with Corporal Economides at the Harem on Custom House Avenue. She said Corporal Manos knew she had sex with the trooper because Corporal Economides bragged about his experience.

Ms. Waibel said yesterday she has been interviewed by state police internal affairs detectives. She said the detectives asked her to identify a photo of Corporal Economides and then gave her a polygraph exam, asking her whether she had sex with him. State police sources say she showed no deception during that exam. "We had

State police rules are specific about sexual liaisons during vice investigations. "It is the policy of this agency that no trooper will engage in any sexual act during any investigation involving prostitution, lewdness or any other vice crime," the patrol manual says.

Messages left at the state police agency for the two troopers were not returned yesterday, and an attorney handling one of their cases could not be reached for comment. The troopers, reassigned pending the outcome of the proceedings, earlier declined to discuss the case.

After being formally charged, the troopers are entitled to administrative hearings. A three-member panel will recommend what action -- if any -- should be taken. The panel could recommend suspension of firing. State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver will make the final decision.

In another episode involving the internal affairs detectives, a trooper was caught in a hotel room with the wife of a Block bar owner.

Sergeant Rineker was one of the lead undercover troopers assigned to the Block investigation. During his rounds, he met Mahala Battaglia, a Harem bartender married to club owner Paul Battaglia.

Mr. Battaglia later said he caught his wife and Sergeant Rineker in a hotel in Rosedale. Mr. Battaglia later filed for divorce. In divorce court testimony, Sergeant Rineker acknowledged that he spent the night at the hotel with Ms. Battaglia but denied that they had sex.

Lieutenant Shipley said the state police will not pursue charges against Sergeant Rineker because he resigned.

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