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Did Intel Recruit a Criminal?

April 26, 2010

In its rush to recruit an undercover officer to spy on terrorists, the NYPD failed to properly vet a cop now accused in the million-dollar New Jersey perfume heist.

Officer Kelvin Jones, 28, did not undergo a vigorous background check and never attended the Police Academy before he was sent out to infiltrate the suspect group, sources say.

And although he quickly failed in his mission because, as a source put it, “He could not be trusted,” the NYPD kept him on the force.

The Intelligence Division had recruited Jones, who worked at a Footlocker shoe store — literally off the street due to pressure from the top — i.e., Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen — to find an African-American to infiltrate the group, sources say.

Jones may have looked the part, but he lasted only a few months as a spy.

It was unclear which problem within his secret unit, known as the Special Security Unit, led to his dismissal.

In Intel’s customary manner, it sought a scapegoat and settled on a lower-level official — Jones’s handler — transferring him from the unit. The handler, a military veteran and decorated undercover, took the fall and kept his mouth shut, and was later reinstated.

As for Jones, instead of dismissing him from the department altogether, Intel bounced him to the 46th precinct in the Bronx, supposedly with the knowledge of the Internal Affairs Bureau, which was to keep an eye on him, sources said.

God only know what other shenanigans Jones has engaged since leaving Intel and working in the 46th precinct.

But last month he was arrested for the Feb. 9 botched hold-up of a perfume warehouse in Carlstadt, New Jersey, along with eight others — two of whom were police officers from the 34th precinct. A retired NYPD cop was also arrested.

According to news reports, Jones had used a database from the precinct to obtain the names, addresses, and license numbers of company employees.

He and the other officers allegedly led the band of thieves, which included 16 day laborers at the warehouse, displaying badges and identifying themselves as police officers to company employees, saying they were conducting a routine inspection.

They then loaded hundreds of boxes of expensive perfumes into five rented trucks, according to the charges.

Jones had allegedly tried to pay for the trucks in cash, but was told it was against company policy, so he used a debit card that didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the $205.79 cost. He then allegedly directed NYPD officer Richard LeBlanca to use his debit card but it, too, lacked sufficient funds. Orlando Garcia, the former NYPD officer, then allegedly used his card to pay.

Jones was charged with conspiracy and faces 20 years in prison. His attorney, Chris Patella of Bayonne, N.J., declined comment, saying, “My advice is that he not talk to people.”

The NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, Paul Browne, did not return an email message seeking comment.

Did Staten Island police mishandle the case of a black man who suffered a broken jaw because his accuser was a white, retired detective?

That’s the question a jury will decide this week in Brooklyn federal court before Judge Jack Weinstein in a civil rights case with racial overtones.

On May 16, 2003, Aaron Wong, a 21-year-old black man, and his girlfriend, 19-year-old Brooke Lopez, parked their car in a cul-de-sac outside a small apartment complex. The son of the complex’s owner, a retired 16-year NYPD veteran, James Mangone, ordered them to leave, saying they were trespassing.

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Wong testified last week that the first word out of Mangone’s mouth was “nigger,” an allegation Mangone denied. The word is so racially charged that everyone else in the courtroom referred to it as the “N-word.”

All agree that the five-foot-nine-inch Wong, who weighed 143 pounds, and the six-foot-tall Mangone, who weighed 200, began fighting. Mangone smashed Wong’s driver’s side car mirror. Wong took a piece of the glass and hit Mangone, cutting him above the eye. Mangone threw a circular saw through Wong’s windshield, and then chased the fleeing Wong.

A Port Authority cop who lives next door ran outside with his gun drawn and ordered Wong to halt and kneel down. Mangone then struck him from behind, breaking his jaw and knocking him out.

Two cops from the 120th precinct, Young Yoo and Stephen Viani, accompanied by Sgt. Anthony Alfano, arrived. Off-duty detective Leonard Ciurcina, who worked for Mangone, also appeared. Yoo allowed Ciurcina to handcuff Wong, still lying on the ground, while Mangone stood on his neck.

Wong was charged with assault, harassment, and criminal possession of a weapon for a small, closed knife, which he used in his work as a veterinary technician. Mangone was not charged.

In 2005 the Internal Affairs Bureau opened an investigation. Similar investigations had been opened — but dropped — by the 120th precinct’s Integrity Control Officer, the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, and the FBI.

IAB recommended charges be filed against Officers Yoo, Viani and Alfano for “impeding an investigation.” An undated IAB memo read that their description of events “greatly differed from the numerous witnesses’ statements.”

IAB also recommended charges against Ciurcina for failing to identify himself as a police officer and for not notifying the department he had been involved in the incident.

Despite IAB’s recommendations, no officer was penalized. Yoo and Viani were promoted to sergeant.

April has nearly passed, yet Joe Demarest, the hard-charging head of the FBI’s New York office, remains in Washington on “temporary assignment.”

That assignment followed allegations that he had used his influence to get his FBI girlfriend, Teresa Carlson, a promotion.

The FBI, which apparently has little sympathy for matters of the heart, referred the case to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation, raising concerns that Demarest may never return to New York in FBI garb.

Fueling those concerns, sources say, is the tense relationship that developed between him and the Bureau’s two senior managers, who at times were Carlson’s direct superiors. One of them was David Cardona, who led the corruption investigation of former police commissioner Bernard Kerik and who was recently promoted to a job in Washington.

In addition, sources say that Demarest is at the center of a separate investigation, regarding his transfer of a longtime female administrative assistant.

But take heart, Demarest fans. Maybe NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly can hire Demarest to replace outgoing Counter Terrorism Deputy Commissioner Richard Falkenrath.

On the surface, Demarest has the creds. He’s a recognized terrorism expert, gets along with Kelly better than he does with his own staff — which may be the reason someone dropped a dime about him and his love life.

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