JULIE SHAW Daily News Staff Writer [email protected], 215-854-2592″P
POLICE! Police!” the narcotics cops screamed after they busted through a locked, red wooden gate, then burst through the door to the couple’s Frankford home.
About 10 plainclothes cops, some with police badges around their necks, armed with guns and rifles, raced into their house, on the second and third floor of a building, the wife told the Daily News yesterday. More cops were outside, she said.
Her husband, a small-business owner, was one of the men allegedly robbed by a band of rogue cops, six of whom were arrested by the feds Wednesday morning. The cops, accused of stealing from suspected drug dealers, were indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy, robbery and related offenses.
The husband, identified in the federal indictment by his initials, R.B., and his wife said that he was not selling drugs. He was not arrested by police after the cops went to his home.
Before the incident, R.B., now 40, had been arrested twice – in Virginia when he was 21, and an alcohol-related DUI in Philadelphia in 2003, for which he pleaded guilty and served a year of probation, he and his wife said.
Hours after cops entered their home about 6 p.m. Feb. 28, 2006, they kidnapped R.B. and took him to a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport, where they kept him for about a week, he said.
The cops wanted him to help them find people to rob, he said.
“I did what I had to do,” he said yesterday. “I was in fear they were going to kill me.”
R.B. and his wife asked the Daily News not to publish their names. They no longer live in Frankford.
Of the six cops indicted by the feds this week, R.B. and his wife pointed to one who they said had definitely been in their house, located above the husband’s business: Thomas Liciardello.
“He was giving directions,” the wife, 36, said of Liciardello. “He was giving orders, threatening, pacing. He was the one running the show. No one else said anything.”
Liciardello yelled: ” ‘Give me all the drugs! You better bring the drugs and money. If I have to bring in the canines, it will be worse,’ ” the wife recalled.
As Liciardello demanded money, the wife said, she huddled on the steps between the second and third floors of their house with her husband’s four frantic boys (his kids from a previous relationship) and their baby daughter, then about 10 months old. The oldest child was 6 years old.
About two hours after entering, the cops began searching the house, the wife said. “They opened every single jar,” she said. “The sugar, the cereals, the rice. They put everything on the floor.”
They took $12,000 that her husband had in a bedroom drawer – proceeds from selling a van and from his business, she said. Liciardello put the cash in his pocket and said, ” ‘Wow, I’m going to buy a big-screen TV now,’ ” the wife said. They found no drugs, she said.
She said she thinks her husband was targeted because a neighbor who was a drug dealer had been arrested that day and the cops may have thought her husband knew him.
One of the cops inside the house wore a ski mask, she said. She did not know why. A tall cop had dreadlocks, she said.
Liciardello, a short man – “such a little body and such a big mouth,” the wife said – frightened her when he told her: ” ‘Your hair looks better blond,’ ” she said.
She realized that Liciardello, whom she did not recognize, must have been watching her. On this day, her hair was dyed black; previously it had been bleached blond.
About 9 p.m., the cops took her husband out in cuffs, she said.
She said she frantically called the area police districts and police headquarters, but no one could tell her where he was. “I was thinking the worst,” she said.
About three days later, her husband called, saying he was in a hotel room. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. They’re feeding me. I’m fine,’ ” she said.
One of the cops then got on the phone and told her to go to a CVS parking lot near her home and to bring clothes for her husband, she said. She did as she was told. In the lot, a black officer got out of a white Lincoln Navigator and took her book bag of clothes, but would not answer her when she hysterically asked where her husband was, she said.
About three days after that, Liciardello (she said she recognized his voice) called and told her to pick up her husband at a Hunting Park laundromat. She did.
R.B. said the cops didn’t harm him in the hotel. But they threatened him, he said.
“They were telling me, ‘Do this. If not, you are not going to see your kids, your wife,’ ” he said.
He did not want the details of what they asked him to do to be published, fearing repercussions.
He said about four or five cops, including Liciardello, kept watch over him in the hotel room, rotating with others. He said he mostly sat, uncuffed, on the bed as the cops “were talking to each other” and sometimes drinking beer.
The cops took him out with them when they went to a Southwest Philly bar to play pool and drink beer, he said. He sat in the bar as they watched over him.
Liciardello’s attorney, Brian McMonagle, did not respond to the Daily News yesterday for comment on R.B.’s case.
On Wednesday, after Liciardello and the five other arrested cops made an initial appearance in federal court, McMonagle said in response to the indictment: “Tom Liciardello vehemently denies these allegations and looks forward to going to trial and clearing his name.”
Looking at a photo of Liciardello in yesterday’s Daily News, R.B.’s wife said, “I will never forget his face.”
R.B. also recognized another cop whose photo was in a newspaper yesterday – Jeffrey Walker – as also being present at his house and at the hotel that time.
Walker had been arrested in May 2013 after an FBI sting. He has pleaded guilty in that case and has agreed to cooperate with the feds against his former colleagues. His cooperation led to this week’s indictment of the six other cops.
Also arrested Wednesday were former narcotics cops Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser. Speiser’s attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, said his client “categorically denies the allegations against him.”