Papers shed light on probe at bar Details of investigation into alleged gambling revealed in documents

March 23, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A city police officer's attempt to halt an investigation into his activities has provided a glimpse into a two-year corruption and gambling probe that court documents say was centered at a South Baltimore bar.

The investigation at Ropewalk Tavern at 1209 S. Charles St. led detectives to a convicted murderer, who allegedly accepted bets on football games and kept a .38-caliber handgun at the bar, according to a sealed Police Department search warrant application, portions of which were reviewed by The Sun.

Details of the criminal investigation emerged after Detective Thomas Fore, a former part-owner of the Ropewalk, sued the Police Department last month, claiming its aggressive investigative tactics violated his civil rights.

In his lawsuit, Fore said that during a 1996 interrogation by police and the FBI, he was told by Lt. Anthony G. Cannavale to resign or face criminal charges related to his ownership in the bar, which is prohibited by department regulations.

"Lt. Cannavale specifically advised Detective Fore that he was facing 32 counts of criminal malfeasance, as well as termination and other charges," according to the lawsuit Fore filed in February.

Fore, a former narcotics detective who is now answering phones in the communications division, is seeking return of his police powers, an end to the two-year investigation and $750,000 in damages.

The investigation of Fore stemmed from his ownership in the bar and his participation in a 1996 South Baltimore undercover drug operation in which Ropewalk patrons were targets. Though Fore had disclosed in liquor board records that he was a police officer, his supervisors said they were unaware of his connection during the drug operation.

Ropewalk owner Mary E. McFaul said she bought out Fore's $6,000 investment this month and denied that her bar is part of any wrongdoing or illegal activity.

"We bought him out," McFaul said Friday. "We're happy he's gone. We just want to get on with our lives. Every nightmare you could imagine about partners came true."

McFaul said that she has seen the police search warrant affidavit and called the allegations baseless. She denied that an undercover detective placed bets at Ropewalk, saying that he was recognized as a police officer almost immediately.

McFaul also charges that police are using her bar "to get Tommy. Tommy made his own decisions. We have done nothing wrong. We are honest people who happened to befriend a person who is in a lot of trouble. It's guilt by association. We don't even have a football pool in here. We're that good."

According to the suit, Fore said that he was called into FBI headquarters in Woodlawn on Nov. 19, 1996, questioned for several hours and denied an opportunity to consult with his lawyer.

Fore lawsuit

"Lt. Cannavale further states that the disposition of these cases would be five years in prison," the suit states.

In the suit, Fore said he was told that a federal prosecutor was "waiting outside the interview room with several FBI agents ready to charge him."

Fore, a six-year veteran, refused to resign or take a polygraph test, and has not been charged with a crime.

Police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. declined to comment, saying, "It is not our policy to comment on pending litigation."

Cannavale also would not comment, citing the continuing criminal investigation.

Police response

Police sources, however, dismissed the claims made in the lawsuit as frivolous. Asked how much of the 17-page document was untrue, one police official familiar with the investigation said: "Most of it."

According to the search warrant affidavit, police had an undercover officer at the bar -- the affidavit does not say in what capacity -- between September and November 1996. The affidavit states that the undercover officer "was able to develop information involving illegal gambling and possession of an illegal weapon and police misconduct."

The affidavit says that the undercover officer placed wagers on two football games at the tavern. A .38-caliber handgun was kept at the bar by the convicted murderer who accepted bets, according to the affidavit.

Fore's police union lawyer, Michael Marshall, said that he could not comment on the investigation of Fore. Marshall said that the lawsuit deals specifically with the officer's contention that his rights were violated when he was threatened with termination and criminal charges unless he resigned from the force.

Fore could not be reached for comment.

In a Sun interview in 1996, Fore said that he was unaware of department rules prohibiting officers from owning liquor establishments; that he interpreted the rules as only forbidding officers from working in businesses that serve alcohol; and that he did not work at Ropewalk.

Fore's lawsuit says that during the Nov. 19, 1996, interview, FBI Special Agent Dan Dreilbelbis asked him "detailed questions about the Ropewalk Tavern and Detective Fore's friends and partners. Agent Dreilbelbis also discussed an FBI drug case and Detective Fore's real estate holdings."

During the same interrogation, Fore's lawsuit says, Cannavale told him "that he would have to choose between his police job and his other life," and then, with Sgt. Joseph Peters, handed him a resignation form that cited "personal reasons" for his departure.

Pub Date: 3/23/98

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