Rhode Island Attorney General's Office, Jeff Pine And The Infamous Narcotics Strike Force

Institutionalized State Sponsored Organized Crime

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This page shows suits filed in connection with abuses regarding the Attorney General's Infamous Narcotics Strike Force. The Plaintiff's last names and case numbers are:

Davock [98-186], Berouty [98-184], Vento [98-183], Pereira [98-187]. Also damaged was John Carraturo, Terry Collins, Michael Cribari, Brian Fortin, Joyce Laferriere and Ed Livingston.

See update.

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Jeff Pine And The Infamous Narcotics Strike Force
Jeffrey B. Pine, Attorney General, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento, Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Statutorily charged with the responsibility to direct the initiation of criminal investigations by the Department of Attorney General's Office of Investigation.
  • Statutorily charged with the responsibility for appointing a chief and field investigators to conduct the business of the Department of Attorney General's Office of Investigation.
  • Directed and supervised a July 1994 nine month criminal investigation in the towns of Warren and Bristol.
  • As part of the investigation Defendant Cesar Moreno was employed and utilized as an agent (informant) of the attorney general's department.
  • Recklessly and negligently appointed Sylvia, McGreevy, House and Dias to the Department of Attorney General's Office of Investigation without proper training.
  • Intentionally ignored warnings by senior and supervising prosecutors and allowed reckless, negligent and intentionally illicit activities and tactics of the Department of Attorney General's Office of Investigations to continue.
  • Recklessly, willfully and maliciously ignored warnings Moreno was not being supervised by Sylvia and other members of the Department and of Moreno's lack of reliability.
  • Recklessly, willfully and maliciously ignored warnings regarding the lack of reliability and credibility of Sylvia.
  • Reckless, callous and deliberate indifference for Plaintiff's constitutional rights

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Robert J. Sylvia, Chief of investigations, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento and was sued.
  • Executed search and arrest warrants for Plaintiffs knowing they were innocent.
  • Knowingly filed false written statements regarding Moreno and Moreno's compensation by the department.
  • Knowingly provided false information and statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in the State filing suit seeking forfeiture of Plaintiff's property and depriving Plaintiffs of use of said property.
  • Knowingly made numerous false statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in Plaintiff's arrest, loss of liberty, loss of business, loss of property, criminal prosecution and failure of state prosecutors to provide constitutionally required exculpatory information and statutorily required information regarding promises, rewards, inducements, motive and bias.
  • Recklessly, willfully, maliciously and intentionally allowed and directed McGreevy, House, Dias and Moreno to engage in illicit activities resulting in the deprivation of civil and constitutional rights, false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Cesar Moreno, Strike Force Agent and one-time star informant, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento, Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Knowingly filed false statements attesting to meetings with Plaintiffs to discuss purchase of cocaine and to actually purchase cocaine.
  • Knowingly made numerous false statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in Plaintiff's arrest, loss of liberty, loss of business, loss of property, criminal prosecution and failure of state prosecutors to provide constitutionally required exculpatory information and statutorily required information regarding promises, rewards, inducements, motive and bias.
  • Knowingly and falsely identified some Plaintiffs from photographs shown for the purpose of identifying persons who sold him cocaine.
Michael McGreevy, Investigator, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Wendy Vento, Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Knowingly filed false statements stating he overheard Cesar Moreno meet with Plaintiffs to discuss purchase of cocaine and observed Moreno purchase what was believed to be cocaine from Plaintiffs.
  • Knowingly filed false affadavits to request and receive search warrants of Plaintiff's business.
  • Knowingly filed false affadavits to request and receive arrest warrants for Plaintiff's.
  • Executed search and arrest warrants for Plaintiffs knowing they were innocent.
  • Knowingly provided false information and statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in the State filing suit seeking forfeiture of Plaintiff's property and depriving Plaintiff's of use of said property.
  • Knowingly made numerous false statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in Plaintiff's arrest, loss of liberty, loss of business, loss of property, criminal prosecution and failure of state prosecutors to provide constitutionally required exculpatory information and statutorily required information regarding promises, rewards, inducements, motive and bias.
Ronald L. House, Investigator, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Wendy Vento, Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Knowingly filed false statements stating he overheard Cesar Moreno meet with Plaintiffs to discuss purchase of cocaine.
  • Executed search and arrest warrants for Plaintiffs knowing they were innocent.
  • Knowingly provided false information and statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in the State filing suit seeking forfeiture of Plaintiff's property and depriving Plaintiff's of use of said property.
  • Knowingly made numerous false statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in Plaintiff's arrest, loss of liberty, loss of business, loss of property, criminal prosecution and failure of state prosecutors to provide constitutionally required exculpatory information and statutorily required information regarding promises, rewards, inducements, motive and bias.
Peter Dias, Investigator, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty and was sued.
  • Executed search and arrest warrants for Plaintiffs knowing they were innocent.
  • Knowingly filed false Criminal Information Affidavit stating Plaintiff's had sold cocaine to Moreno resulting in felony criminal charges against Plaintiffs.
  • Knowingly filed false Criminal Information Police Narrative Report stating Plaintiff's had sold cocaine to Moreno resulting in felony criminal charges against Plaintiffs.
  • Knowingly provided false information and statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in the State filing suit seeking forfeiture of Plaintiff's property and depriving Plaintiff's of use of said property.
  • Knowingly made numerous false statements regarding Plaintiff's involvement in criminal activity resulting in Plaintiff's arrest, loss of liberty, loss of business, loss of property, criminal prosecution and failure of state prosecutors to provide constitutionally required exculpatory information and statutorily required information regarding promises, rewards, inducements, motive and bias.
Attorney General's Office committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento and was sued.
  • See Charges Above
State Of Rhode Island committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento, Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Violations above are considered "State Actions" [directly authorized by the State]
Nancy Mayer, General Treasurer, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against these Citizens: William Davock, Kim Berouty, Wendy Vento and was sued.
  • Money used to finance operations came from General Treasury
Town Of Warren committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against this Citizen: Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Assisted in wrongdoing
Thomas Perrotta, Warren Police Chief, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against this Citizen: Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Failure to properly screen, train, supervise, discipline, transfer, counsel, or otherwise control Police Officers under whose custody and control are persons who conduct drug task investigastions
  • Failure to provide sufficient personnel to properly monitor and maintain the drug task force
  • Reckless, callous and deliberate indifference for Plaintiff's constitutional rights
Christopher DeComitis, Warren Police Officer, committed the following reckless violations of Civil Rights against this Citizen: Lisa Pereira and was sued.
  • Acquiesced, and/or participated in a custom or policy or practice of illegally detaining and seizing persons without probable cause
  • Failure to properly screen train, supervise, discipline, transfer, counsel, those under whose custody and control are persons in need of medical attention
  • Reckless, callous and deliberate indifference for Plaintiff's constitutional rights

Update
State pays out $219,500 in wrongful-arrest cases

The 10 people were arrested by the now discredited and disbanded attorney general's Drug Strike Force in 1995.

By W. ZACHARY MALINOWSKI and MIKE STANTON - Journal Staff Writers

PROVIDENCE -- Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse announced yesterday that the state has agreed to pay out more than $200,000 in settlements to 10 people who were wrongly arrested by agents assigned to ex-Atty. Gen. Jeffrey B. Pine's Drug Strike Force. The settlements bring to a close one of the biggest law-enforcement scandals in recent Rhode Island history.

"Never in my 25 years as a lawyer have I seen this kind of settlement, "This sort of pattern of malfeasance, in case after case, usually doesn't happen. Police officers don't act this way, generally -- thank God."

said Brian Cunha, who represents two of the plaintiffs.

Pine, now a lawyer in private practice, did not object to the state's decision.

"I certainly defer to the judgment of [Whitehouse] on how to best resolve the cases," Basically, if anyone was wronged, they certainly deserve to be compensated fairly."

William Davock, owner of the Market Street Pub in Warren, settled for $25,000 after being wrongly arrested on cocaine charges. He spent a week in the Adult Correctional Institutions in April 1995.

Davock remains bitter toward the Strike Force and Pine, whom he called the "skipper of the ship." Nonetheless, he feels that he has come out on top.

"The Strike Force members are cutting lawns someplace, Pine's chasing ambulances, and I'm still here," Davock said. "I know what they did. They know what they did, and God knows what they did."

Davock and 10 others filed civil-rights actions raising questions about the conduct of the Strike Force agents. The state reached out-of-court settlements with the group for a total of $219,500. The settlement amounts, which will be paid for by the state and the Interlocal Risk Management Trust, cover all damages and attorneys' fees.

In addition, the state paid for lawyers who represented Pine and the former Strike Force agents, who were codefendants in the suit. Those figures were not readily available yesterday, according to a spokesman at the attorney general's office.

Pine, who took office in 1993, transformed the Strike Force from a quiet unit that coordinated small drug investigations with local police into a paramilitary squad whose Ninja-hooded members kicked down doors and invited television cameras on raids. In late 1996, The Journal ran a series of stories raising questions about the backgrounds and actions of several agents working for the Strike Force.

Around that same time, Pine announced that he had disbanded the elite unit. Nonetheless, Pine's office continued to prosecute cases involving the testimony of an informant who had been exposed as a liar by setting up a man who had stolen his girlfriend.

In October 1998, a grand jury indicted former agents Michael McGreevy, Ronald House and Jonathan Cute, along with their one-time star informant Cesar Moreno, on federal civil-rights violations. They were charged with falsifying affidavits and witness statements to support the arrests of seven people in undercover drug operations in Warren, Woonsocket and Smithfield in 1994 and 1995.

Whitehouse, at the time, was the U.S. Attorney who brought the criminal charges against the agents. The FBI and the state police conducted the lengthy investigation. In January 1999, Moreno disappeared and a federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest. The authorities suspect that he fled to Colombia where he is a naturalized citizen. He remains at large. A few months later, a federal jury found McGreevy, House and Cute not guilty of any criminal charges.

Pine said at the time that he wasn't surprised by the verdict, and called the government's case "obviously weak."  Meanwhile, the civil suits pressed ahead. A point of contention was whether the attorney general's office would have to release internal memos that prosecutors had written that were critical of the Strike Force. The case settled before the issue could be resolved, and none of the memos were disclosed.

The key memo was written by a top Pine deputy, James W. Ryan, who warned the attorney general early in 1995 that the Strike Force was "spinning out of control." Ryan accused the man Pine had hired to run the Strike Force, former Middletown police Capt. Robert J. Sylvia, of deception and "extraordinary bad judgment." Ryan wrote Pine that he had ordered the revocation of one Strike Force agent's gun permit because of the agent's inexperience. But the agent, a former flight attendant who had been in hock to a mob loan shark, kept his gun.

Ryan was demoted by Pine a few months later -- after Sylvia complained to Pine about Ryan -- in what Pine called an office reorganization. It wasn't until more than a year later, after a defense lawyer offered proof in court that the Strike Force's key informant had lied, that the federal investigation began and Pine then disbanded the unit. Lawyers for some of the plaintiffs attempted to question Pine in a deposition last spring about what he knew and what he did about problems with the Strike Force. But Pine declined to answer, on the advice of his lawyer, saying that any such internal communications were privileged, Cunha said.

In addition to William Davock, those wrongly arrested and the amount of each settlement are as follows:

Kimberly Berouty, of Warren, $35,000. She was arrested on April 7, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine. She spent four days at the ACI. The charge was later dismissed.

John Carraturo, of Barrington, $10,000. He was arrested on April 8, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine and conspiracy to deliver cocaine. The charges were later dismissed.

Terry P. Collins, of Smithfield, $30,000. He was arrested on Dec. 1, 1995, and charged with two counts of delivery of marijuana, possession of marijuana and maintaining a narcotics nuisance. He pleaded no contest to the delivery of marijuana charge and got five years' probation. The plea was later vacated and the charges dismissed.

Michael J. Cribari, of Smithfield, $20,000. He was arrested on Dec. 1, 1995, and charged with possession of marijuana. The charge was later dismissed.

Brian Fortin, of Barrington, $9,500. He was arrested on April 7, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine and conspiracy. He spent two days at the ACI. The charges were later dismissed.

Joyce Laferriere, of Bristol, $10,000. She was arrested on April 7, 1995, and charged with conspiracy to deliver cocaine and delivery of cocaine. She spent two days at the ACI. She pleaded no contest to one charge and was sentenced to a year's probation. The plea was later vacated and the charges dismissed.

Edward Joseph Livingstone, of Warren, $25,000. He was arrested on April 11, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine and conspiracy. He spent 16 days at the ACI. The charges were later dismissed.

Lisa Pereira, of Warren, $43,000. She was arrested on April 7, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine and conspiracy. She spent four days at the ACI. She pleaded no contest to a felony charge and was sentenced to probation. The plea was later vacated and the charges dismissed.

Wendy A. Vento, of Bristol, $12,000. She was arrested on April 7, 1995, and charged with delivery of cocaine. She spent 30 days at the ACI. She later pleaded no contest to the charge and received a five-year suspended sentence.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Journal Company


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