A 1996 drug raid on a New York apartment turned up no money, according to the search warrant.
Yet a fluke event – “once in a hundred years,” as a lawyer later said – provided a candid glimpse of the search and raised troublesome questions, the New York Times reports.
During the commotion, someone turned on a telephone answering machine’s recorder, apparently without realizing it. For the next 30 minutes, the machine captured the clamor and chatter of the search: an exclamation, “My God, that’s a lot of money;” a wisecrack about the Constitution; a crude racial remark about the apartment’s residents, who were not home.
Seven minutes into the tape, a man can be heard quietly counting. “Six hundred,” he says. “Eight hundred. Nine hundred.” Twenty-nine seconds later, the sound of a zipper is heard.
Annette Brown, who lived in the apartment and played a minor role in her son’s drug business, later told authorities that $900 in cash had disappeared from a zippered portfolio. The police and federal agents all denied seeing money.
At least three official investigations of Ms. Brown’s claim and tape led to no charges.
Now, eight years later, as the New York Police Department faces allegations of corruption on a much grander scale, Carlos Rodriguez, the detective who was in charge of tallying evidence from the Brown apartment, has again come under scrutiny, for an entirely separate episode. This time, a retired detective claims to have shared money taken from a drug dealer with Detective Rodriguez, according to a person who has been briefed on the inquiry.
Detective Rodriguez is among 10 current or former police officers who worked drug cases in upper Manhattan and are now under investigation for their conduct over the last decade, based on claims of corruption from the retired detective and his partner, according to law enforcement officials and people with knowledge of the case. So far, the retired detective, Thomas Rachko, and his partner, Julio C. Vasquez, are the only current or former officers who have been charged in the case, indicted on narcotics conspiracy, money laundering and other charges. Both men, along with Detective Rodriguez and at least one former officer also under scrutiny, have had discussions with prosecutors, people with knowledge of the investigation have said.
The Police Department believes that no money was taken in the 1996 incident, Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said, so the case could not represent a missed opportunity to stop the sort of misconduct now under investigation. The department contends that the tape is a kind of audio illusion, with the provocative-sounding section actually best understood as jokes, sarcastic remarks or, in the case of the racial slur, simply inappropriate language.