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Drug-trafficking probe continues

May 7, 2001

Federal officials are investigating whether one or more police officers were involved with a recently demoted deputy inspector accused of narcotics violations while in a Bronx homicide-narcotics task force six years ago, sources told Newsday yesterday.

The deputy inspector, Dennis Sindone, was demoted to captain Friday, less than a month after Commissioner Bernard Kerik had promoted him. After the promotion, he had been placed on modified assignment, his badge taken from him.

Police sources say his promotion, which came after he had been a captain for about a year, had been recommended to Kerik by a sergeant in Kerik's security detail who had served with Sindone in the same Bronx task force. Kerik's spokesman Tom Antenen declined to comment.

Police sources said the task force was put together in the 1990s as police officials determined that most homicides were drug related. The unit, which worked closely with the detective bureau, was disbanded about a year and a half ago, the sources said.

In what appears to be the first whiff of major police corruption under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the department has portrayed Sindone's actions as isolated and occurring while he was off duty, but sources said the feds are investigating the possibility that more cops may have been involved. Neither the department nor the feds have described the specific allegations against Sindone.

But three sources told Newsday last week that Sindone is accused of protecting a drug shipment, a charge his attorney Philip Karasyk said, "Sindone categorically denies."

Most disturbing to top department officials is, first, that Sindone, an 18-year veteran, is the highest ranking department official ever implicated in alleged drug trafficking and, second, that he was enormously well-regarded at One Police Plaza.

As a chief for whom he worked put it last week, "If Dennis did this, he must have been desperate."

Police sources say the allegations against Sindone were first brought to the feds by a confidential informant seeking a better deal for himself after his arrest on undisclosed charges. Yet despite the source of the allegations, no one in the department has rushed to defend Sindone.

A top police official said last week, "The question is not whether or not Sindone will lose his job but whether or not he will go to jail."

Apparently, the feds have more than the word of a confidential informant.

Alan's List. Here are some of the folks Comptroller Alan Hevesi says advise him on police issues in his mayoral campaign: Former police commissioner Bill Bratton, who has endorsed Hevesi's rival, Mark Green;Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney, who Hevesi says he last spoke to seven months ago; and current commissioner Kerik, who recently criticized Hevesi for accusing the Police Department of racial profiling.

Now here are the people Hevesi says he would consider for police commissioner if elected mayor: Timoney; former commissioner Ray Kelly; current first deputy Joe Dunne, who Hevesi acknowledges he barely knows; Kerik [which would make him the first police commissioner retained by an incoming mayor]; and Bratton [which would make him the first police commissioner in city history to have backed a rival candidate].

Strange Bedfellows Department. Here is the press release from Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, dated April 30, after a meeting with Democratic state Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last week.

"I met with Senator Clinton for more than an hour this morning and we had a cordial and productive discussion of many issues of mutual concern," Lynch wrote. "I briefed the Senator about the crisis in New York's inability to recruit and retain police officers and she pledged to address that problem in whatever way she could.

"I told her of my contention that a dramatic improvement in police salaries here would be the key element in solving the problem and she agreed that our officers deserve adequate compensation for the hard work they do.

"We exchanged ideas on a wide range of subjects affecting law enforcement in general and New York City's cops in particular-including the issue of racial profiling and the problem of summons and arrest quotas-and we agreed to engage in a continuing dialogue."

No response from Hillary.

Slumming? None other than the PBA's top legal gun, Steve Worth, appeared in the police trial room last week to defend an officer accused of concealing assets in a bankruptcy hearing.

Resplendent in a pin-striped suit, cell phone in hand as he stopped on the second floor where the city's police reporters are based, Worth is the same fellow who defended Ed McMellon in the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo and Charles Schwarz in the sodomy of Abner Louima.

So what's he doing in such a lowly venue as the police trial room?

"First," Worth said, "we're short a couple of guys so I have to help out. Second, it's a complicated white-collar case and I wouldn't want a less experienced lawyer to handle it."

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.