12/10/2003

Md. Police Supt., a Former NYPD Official, Indicted on Charges of Misusing Police Money

BY BRIAN WITTE, The Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Maryland State police superintendent Edward T. Norris has been indicted on charges of using money from a Baltimore Police Department account finance extramarital affairs and pay for personal trips while he was the city police commissioner, the U.S. attorney said Wednesday.

Norris is a former high-ranking chief with the New York City Police Department. He was commissioner of the Baltimore police department from 2000 through 2002, when he left to join the Maryland State Police.

Indicted with Edward T. Norris was his former chief of staff at the Baltimore department, John Stendrini. They are accused of misusing more than $20,000 between May 2000 and August 2002 from an account created from three Depression-era charity funds set up to benefit police officers.

"The defendants repeatedly used the funds as if it were their own ATM and repeatedly made withdrawals to pay for luxury hotels, expensive meals, clothing and gifts and to finance romantic encounters with several different women," U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said at a news conference.

Norris, 43, was the Baltimore police commissioner from May 2000 through 2002, when he left to join the Maryland State Police.

The indictment said that although there were no written guidelines for the use of money from the account, it "was required to be used for the benefit of the Baltimore Police Department."

Norris and Stendrini used false authorization letters for more than 40 withdrawals from the fund, the indictment alleged. They also caused the city to incur excessive overtime expenses by using police officers to "transport female companions in connection with romantic encounters" with Norris, DiBiagio said. Norris allegedly carried on the encounters in Baltimore and New York with at least six women.

Norris used money from the fund to "stock his house with alcohol, pay for travel, pay for gifts from Victoria's Secret and Coach," DiBiagio said.

In May 2002, Norris lied about attending a meeting on terrorism in New York that had been canceled and billed the fund for $700 for the trip, DiBiagio said.

Norris is also accused of lying on a mortgage application to a municipal employees' credit union. He received a $9,000 loan from an employee for a down payment on his home, but falsely represented that money was a gift from his father, the indictment said.

Norris has been under investigation since early this year for activities during his tenure as the city's police commissioner. The indictments were unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Norris' attorney, Andrew J. Graham, did not respond to phone calls Wednesday to his office and cell phone seeking comment. Stendrini's attorney, Michael Schatzow, was out of town and could not immediately be reached for comment, his office said.

Norris joined the Baltimore department from the New York City police department, bringing with him a computer crime-tracking system called ComStat. Under his tenure, Baltimore cut its crime rates sharply.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich hired Norris as state police superintendent in December. His spokesman, Gregory Massoni, said the indictment was being reviewed. Asked if Norris had resigned or had been asked to resign, Massoni said, "I can't say."

Norris said last summer that he would not step down from his job as superintendent even if he was indicted.

"Unless the governor asks me to leave, I'm not going," Norris told The (Baltimore) Sun in July. "I haven't done anything illegal. ... I'll go to trial if it comes to that."

However, Norris issued an apology to the citizens of Baltimore after the spending became public.

"I should have treated the fund from the start as a public fund, even though it was not and never had been," he said. "Had I done this, we would have full and complete records of how the money was used, erasing all doubt about how and for what purposes it might have been spent."

Norris said at that time that the money was spent largely for training, recruiting, meetings with police officials in Baltimore and elsewhere, official travel and on gifts for department members and visitors.

Norris, 43, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to misapply funds, misapplication of funds and making a false statement in a mortgage application. Stendrini, 60, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to misapply funds, misapplication of funds and obstruction of justice.

Once city officials began raising questions about the account, Stendrini lied to them about how the money had been handled, according to the indictment.

The misapplication of funds charges stem from the use of federal funds to cover city police department expenses such as overtime and costs that could have been covered by the special account.

If convicted of all charges, Norris would face a maximum sentence of 45 years. Stendrini would face a maximum sentence of 25 years.

More indictments could follow, DiBiagio said.

"The investigation is continuing, and this case is about more than Ed Norris," DiBiagio said. "We're looking at all the ways the money was spent and who was involved in spending the money."

Norris and Stendrini were expected to surrender Thursday morning to federal marshals and make initial appearances before a federal magistrate later that day.

After The (Baltimore) Sun reported the existence of the fund last year, the city took over the account and ordered an independent audit. At one point during Norris' tenure, the fund held at least $112,000. By the time of the audit, it contained nearly $13,000.

As a result of the audit, the city deducted $7,663 in personal and questionable expenses from Norris' $137,000 severance package when he abruptly left to join the state police.

The U.S. attorney's office started investigating after a citizen came forward in January, claiming a public official had stolen money from the police department, DiBiagio said.

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