Philadelphia Police Officers Admit Robbing Drug Suspects
On December 30, 1996, Philadelphia police officer, Allen L. Wilson, 40, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $46,000 while on patrol during the early 1990s. Wilson, a 17-year veteran officer, confessed to extortion, theft, and conspiracy to violate civil rights. As part of the FBI's case against Wilson, Philadelphia Highway Patrol Officer Michael Stieber, 41, admitted that he and Wilson stole and divided $43,000 from drug dealers in 1992 while they were partners (The Highway Patrol is the name of a unit in the Philadelphia police department) (Larry King, "Phila. officer pleads guilty to corruption," Philadelphia Inquirer, December 31, 1997, p. R1; Larry King and Mark Fazlollah, "Court papers: Officer robbed suspects," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 1, 1997, p. R1).
Wilson and Stieber have been informing on fellow officers in an FBI investigation of police corruption in the 39th district of the Philadelphia police department. Court filings identify Stieber, 41, as a cooperating witness since July 1996 . Wilson testified that he and Officer James Ryan: (1) took $200 in February 1993 from drug suspect Christopher Branch during a search of his car in which they found a gun, drugs and cash; (2) extorted $2,000 from confessed drug dealer Bryant Watson during a search of his car in which they found cocaine in his jacket in February 1993; and (3) stole $1,000 during an illegal search of a suspected drug dealer's house in April 1993.
Stieber and Wilson admit to: (1) taking about $22,000 from a driver on January 21, 1992 who asked "if they could go easy on him and take half" of the money they found in a cardboard box; (2) keeping $11,000 given to them on January 24, 1992 by a grateful drug dealer after the officers prevented him from being murdered by rival dealers; and (3) finding $13,000 in an air bag compartment of Thommie Hampton's Volvo, $10,000 of which they took and divided. Hampton later filed a complaint, but it was dismissed.
Former officer Ryan is serving a 6-year prison sentence. Wilson is to be sentenced on March 18 on charges carrying a combined maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and $1 million in fines. He will likely receive a reduced sentence due to "his substantial assistance in the investigations of others." Stieber has yet to be charged.
So far, eleven former and current officers have been charged in the FBI's investigation. Four were acquitted in a trial in December 1996 and seven have pleaded guilty. More than 150 cases handled by the corrupt officers have been thrown out and the city has paid $3.5 million to settle lawsuits related to the scandal (See "More Drug Convictions Will Be Reversed in Philadelphia," NewsBriefs, March 1996; "Hundreds of Philadelphia Drug Convictions Poised to Be Overturned in Wake of Officer's Guilty Pleas," NewsBriefs, October 1995).