A confidential police informant’s disavowal of more than 50 narcotics cases has drawn in other undercover officers who worked closely with Officer Jeffrey Cujdik in the last six years, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia’s public defender filed challenges to overturn 53 convictions after informant Ventura Martinez alleged that Cujdik fabricated evidence in the cases. An Inquirer analysis of the court files identified about a dozen undercover officers who played critical roles in building the cases.
Martinez’s allegations have triggered a federal-local task-force investigation into the Philadelphia Police Department’s Narcotics Field Unit. In most of the challenged cases, at least one officer conducted surveillance during the purported undercover transactions that Martinez has now called into question. In alleged transactions that contributed to 15 convictions, police said that Martinez handed over the drugs he bought to officers other than Cujdik. Martinez was a highly productive informant who not only initiated investigations with original tips but also was frequently called on short notice to make drug buys from dealers targeted by investigators. Cujdik boasted in court papers that Martinez – known as Confidential Informant 103 – was responsible for about 200 arrests. The cases he has renounced account for only part of his work. Cujdik’s lawyer, George Bochetto, has called Martinez a career criminal and a liar who incriminated Cujdik out of anger.