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Captain probed in drug case

November 3, 1997

A Bronx narcotics captain is under investigation for allegedly shutting down a sting operation to protect his teenage children from arrest.

The investigation follows an anonymous letter sent last month to the media, and to the department's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Apparently written by an undercover narcotics officer in his unit, the letter provides such confidential information as the captain's home phone and beeper number and the Organized Crime Control Bureau's identification number of the sting itself.

IAB Chief Charles Campisi refused to confirm or deny the investigation's existence. But a law enforcement official who has seen the letter said, "If true, these are very serious allegations."

The captain, Joseph March of the Bronx South Narcotics District, and the female undercover officer's direct superior, Lt. John Curran - who the letter says refused to intercede for her - both acknowledge the accuracy of many of the letter's details. But both deny March shut down the operation.

"It's just the opposite," Curran said last week at One Police Plaza, where he was recently transferred. "Captain March came to me and said, I'm afraid I may have to arrest my daughter.' "

Interviewed in his office at the 50th Precinct in the Bronx, March said: "If I did what the letter says I did, then the department should kill me. But I didn't do it."

Given the ways of the NYPD, it is unclear whether the letter is based on truth or spite or both. Within the NYPD's culture, no good deed goes unpunished and folks act more out of self-preservation than in the interests of justice. Considering that the incident occurred a year and a half ago, this seems about right here.

Now to the letter. "On May 31, 1996, at about 11 p.m., six people were arrested for a marijuana narcotics sale in a buy and bust operation (BO #526 - OCCB #96723) at Throggs sic Neck Blvd and Harding Ave., 45th precinct," the letter states.

Six people were arrested, including Gabriel and Steven Farello, the sons of a New York City cop; and Alison Carboni, the daughter of the New Rochelle Police Department's deputy commissioner. All were given desk appearance tickets, a not uncommon procedure for a marijuana sale.

"Information was developed indicating that a male and a female known to all six people were also involved in the sale of marijuana at the time," the letter continues. "They were the son and daughter of Captain Joseph March. Narcotics investigators planned to mount a second B and B' operation. However, Captain March used his position and authority to shut down' this initiative."The next day, the letter says, March called the undercover officer at her home. That's uncommon.

Printable version"During this conversation, Captain March used his position and authority to intimidate the undercover and told her that he wanted this case to go away.' "

"The undercover was so distraught at the pressure put on her by Captain March that she went to her immediate supervisor, Lt. John Curran . . . She indicated to the lieutenant that Captain March's daughter was actually one of the . . . perps and had been observed actually selling marijuana. She further indicated that Captain March's son was also a participant."

After speaking to March, the letter says, Curran told the undercover "there was nothing he could do and that she should give all information to the captain so he could ensure the cases could be dismissed."

Now, here's March's and Curran's story:

Both maintain the trouble began when Carboni's mother, who is March's neighbor, told him the police had mistakenly arrested her daughter. Actually, she contended it was March's daughter who had sold the marijuana. According to Curran, March then told him, "I think my daughter's involved and we may have to arrest her."

Curran and March acknowledge March called the undercover at her home. "He wanted to question her about the identity of the girl who sold her drugs," said Curran.

"Did I speak to the undercover?" says March. "I did. More than once. I said, Are you positive on the identification because the other girl is my daughter.' I said, Do not feel pressured. Don't fabricate anything. If my child is involved, arrest her. If she is arrested, I will be her father in court, not your boss.' She said my daughter was not involved. She told me, I wish this had never happened.'

"I grew up in that neighborhood," continued March, a trim, balding man who is raising four children alone. "I realize I am enforcing the narcotics laws in the place in which I live. But I am still a captain of police.

"And I have one wish in life. If I find an arrow in my back, I would like to know who shot it."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.