Corruption case shines light on NYPD

By Tom Hays

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"I told him it's not worth it because it's not a lot of money," recalled Checo, who pleaded guilty and agreed to become a government witness. "And that's when he said he is going to have something for us and he is going to let us know."

About two months later, Jones let Checo know he wanted help robbing a warehouse. This one was in Brooklyn, and it stored counterfeit clothing.

Checo and two others — patrolman Richard LeBlanca and ex-officer Orlando Garcia — signed on.

Jones "had been sitting on a spot" — police slang for reconnaissance — "for a while and that if I was interested ...he would be paying us $4,000 each," Garcia testified.

The plan called for them to wear NYPD raid jackets, bulletproof vests and badges.

"We were going to try to make it seem like an official NYPD raid. ... Just make it look like, you know, a sting," Garcia said.

Converging on the Brooklyn warehouse, the officers used a broom to knock out a security camera. Jones shouted out the names of the employees before the men handcuffed them and trucks began showing up to haul merchandise away. He told his crew the goods would be sold to a fence.

Word later came that the same fence had made Jones an offer he couldn't refuse, this time regarding a perfume warehouse in Carlstadt, N.J.: If he and his cohorts could "get four trucks of perfumes, he will give them $500,000."

Jones had learned the other side of the law from his police work. He was always careful to use prepaid cell phones. "You gotta change it up," he told Checa. Also, Jones' black BMW had South Carolina plates.

Another tactic came straight out of the surveillance playbook: He had gone to the New Jersey warehouse before that heist to photograph the cars outside. Plugging license plate numbers into NYPD computers, he called up the vehicle registrations and made printouts of names and other information on employees.

On the day of the robbery in 2010, Jones, using the name Mike Smith, went with the others to rent two 24-foot trucks. LeBlanca maxed out his debit card renting one, and Garcia had to use his card, too. Both, incredibly, used their real names — a mistake that would come back to haunt them.

It was still daylight when they arrived at the In Style, USA warehouse. Jones led the fake raid wearing a hat and a hoodie that obscured his face. A police badge hung from his thick neck.

"We have papers, documentation," Jones told them, reading names from his printouts. He told employees they were suspected of selling knockoff merchandise, and accused their boss of hiring undocumented workers and not paying taxes.

The robber-cops used plastic ties to bind the employees. "We were tied up for three hours," one said later. "It was really bad for everyone."

But fear did not silence everyone. The warehouse owner spoke out at one point, saying, according to police testimony: "You're not cops."

The helpless hostages heard the beeping noise of trucks backing up. Day laborers hired by the holdup crew did the loading. There were six trucks in all. Four carrying hundreds of boxes of perfume and other merchandise valued at $1 million got away, but the two 24-foot trucks rented earlier that day were left behind after someone called the police.

Afterward, panic set in. Jones advised his cohorts to report that cards used at the truck rental office had been stolen.

But when it dawned on Checo that Jones had made himself a "ghost" — with the prepaid phones, the alias, the out-of-state plates — and he lashed out.

"If I get arrested and lose my job, I'm going to rat you out," he recalled telling Jones.

Tension only grew when Jones paid the men $2,000 apiece, half of what they were promised.

"They are coming," Checo told Jones, referring to police investigators.

And he was right. Police and federal agents arrested the officers. The owner of the truck rental agency picked Jones out of a photo array. Checo, as promised, flipped, and the other two robbers also cooperated.

Jones was convicted at a federal trial in Newark in December 2010.

At sentencing, he claimed, "I was framed," but the judge was unmoved.

The former NYPD undercover is serving a 16-year sentence in an Ohio prison.

Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report.

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