Two Former Detectives Discuss Pleas in Theft of Drug Cash
A Brooklyn federal prosecutor working on the investigation of two former police detectives charged with stealing $169,000 from a drug money courier said yesterday that his office was involved in plea negotiations with the two men.
Speaking at a hearing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the prosecutor, Steven H. Breslow, an assistant United States attorney, asked for an extension of the 30-day deadline for the government to indict them.
"The parties are pursuing plea negotiations," Mr. Breslow said during the brief proceeding before Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky.
Lawyers for the two men, Thomas Rachko, a retired detective, and Julio C. Vasquez, who was on the force at the time of his arrest and resigned days later, agreed, and the judge granted Mr. Breslow's request.
Mr. Breslow, who works in the office of Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, left the courtroom without talking to reporters. A spokesman for the office, Robert Nardozza, would not comment.
Mr. Rachko and Mr. Vasquez were arrested after they took $169,000 in cash from a drug money courier on a Queens street on Nov. 26, according to court papers. Wearing raid jackets, Mr. Vasquez, who was on duty, and Mr. Rachko confronted the courier, took the cash and pretended to arrest him, according to the papers.
But a team of investigators - other police detectives and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents - had the courier under surveillance as part of a drug-money laundering case and, according to the court papers, interrupted the theft. Mr. Vasquez told the other investigators he was conducting a wiretap investigation, and he and Mr. Rachko drove off in an unmarked police car with the cash and the courier, the papers said.
The surveillance team of detectives and federal agents, part of an elite unit known as the El Dorado Task Force, videotaped the episode, officials have said.
Law enforcement officials have said Mr. Rachko has been cooperating with investigators, detailing thefts of money and drugs he conducted with Mr. Vasquez. He also implicated three other men in crimes, two detectives currently assigned to the Drug Enforcement Task Force and a retired lieutenant, the officials have said.
Mr. Vasquez and the lieutenant, John Maguire, have both had discussions with prosecutors, although neither has formally begun cooperating, several officials have said.
Mr. Vasquez's lead lawyer, Eric Franz, who along with Steven Brill is representing him, declined to comment, as did Mr. Rachko's lawyer, Ronald E. Kliegerman.
Prosecutors and the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau have been investigating whether Mr. Vasquez is connected to the killing, one day before the theft, of a man who investigators say was a drug informant for Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Rachko, several law enforcement officials said.
Yesterday, as Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Rachko, who are both free on bail, waited for the hearing to begin, the two former partners sat on benches at different ends of the hallway outside the courtroom and did not speak to each other.