02/27/2006

More N.J. troopers to be questioned in gambling ring

By Joel Bewley and Jennifer Moroz   
Inquirer Staff Writers

New Jersey state police detectives plan to question as many as 40 troopers who worked with the South Jersey trooper accused of running a multimillion-dollar sports-betting ring with former Philadelphia Flyer Rick Tocchet, investigators said.

So far, Trooper James Harney and a state police sergeant have been disciplined in connection with the gambling operation.

As part of the Operation Slapshot probe, law enforcement sources said, state police will soon begin interviewing colleagues of Harney's. If other troopers are found to have been involved - or to have known about the ring - punishment likely will be swift and severe.

"The investigation will be across the board in terms of our members and anyone else who may have been involved," said Capt. Al Della Fave, state police spokesman. He would not discuss details of the internal probe.

Charged with money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy are Tocchet, Harney and James Ulmer, a South Jersey man accused of helping the pair take bets from clients who authorities say included at least a half-dozen former and current NHL players.

Harney has been accused of taking bets while he should have been on patrol on the New Jersey Turnpike. He has been suspended without pay and is charged with official misconduct.

A state law enforcement source familiar with the probe said internal-affairs investigators were preparing to question the troopers who worked at the Troop D barracks in Moorestown, where Harney was stationed.

The source said investigators also were searching the hard drive of the personal computer taken from Harney's Marlton home.

"If troopers were betting, they will get in trouble," the source said. "Anyone who even knew about it will face administrative charges."

That has already happened to Sgt. Michael Kaiser, a 21-year veteran with a salary of nearly $91,000. He was suspended for allegedly knowing of the ring but failing to turn Harney in. Kaiser, an administrative officer in a Garden State Parkway barracks, declined to comment.

David Jones, president of the New Jersey state troopers' union, said state police detectives - not internal-affairs officers - would question troopers who worked with Harney. Jones said the union would be notified before the interviews began.

"People will be interviewed as to what they did or didn't know. There's nothing unusual about that," he said. "It's no different than doing a street canvass. There's no inferences being drawn. It's just good police work."

He said internal affairs would become involved if other troopers were implicated.

Right now, Jones said, "I have no information that would lead me to believe that any other members of the division were engaged in the bookmaking enterprise."

He also said investigators routinely seized and searched a suspect's computer hard drive.

"They're peeling off the layers of the onion, and wherever it takes them, it takes them," Jones said.

 Philadelphia Inquirer (http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/)

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