NYPD officers charged in phony drug bust

January 15, 2009 10:24:08 AM PST
Two undercover New York Police Department officers tampered with drug evidence to falsely implicate four men in a "buy and bust" operation last year, prosecutors said Thursday. Officer Henry Tavarez, 27, and Detective Stephen Anderson, 33, were awaiting arraignment Thursday on charges of selling drugs, unlawfully imprisoning the suspects, filing false records and other offenses.

The officers "are accused of knowingly engaging in criminal activity that could have resulted in lengthy prison terms for four innocent men," District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "Such conduct cannot, and will not, be tolerated."

Tavarez's lawyer said his client had voluntarily surrendered to face the charges.

"There is a lot more to this story than initially meets the eye," said the attorney, Lawrence Fredella. "I'm sure it will come out in the courtroom procedures."

There was no immediate response to phone messages left with Anderson's attorney.

The officers were part of an undercover team investigating alleged drug dealing at Club Delicioso in Queens on Jan. 4, 2008.

Two men sold Anderson, who was posing as a buyer, three bags of cocaine for $60.

Prosecutors allege that afterward, Anderson gave Tavarez two of the bags - a transfer that became the basis for the drug-sale charges against the officers - so Tavarez could claim that he bought them from four other men at the club for $100. Anderson sought to cover his tracks by reporting that he had purchased only one bag for $40, and advised Tavarez to lie to a grand jury by saying he had forgotten the details of the bust, court papers said.

One of the falsely accused men later helped uncover the scheme by going back to the club and getting a copy of a security camera videotape that showed the four men never had any interaction with the officers. Charges against them were dropped last June.

Tavarez had been on desk duty pending the results of the investigation. Anderson has retired.

If convicted, they each face up to nine years in prison.

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