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Deadly Secret: Cop Killer was Police Informant

July 30, 2012

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One of the three killers of police officer Russel Timoshenko was a paid police informant, registered with the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, according to a document obtained by NYPD Confidential.

The convicted cop killer, 29-year-old Lee Woods, became a police informant just five months before he and two accomplices gunned down Timoshenko on July 9, 2007, the two-page document said.

The document was dated July 10, 2007, the day after Timoshenko’s murder, and titled “Involvement of Intelligence Division CI in Shooting of 71 Precinct MOS.”

It was prepared by the Intelligence Division’s Special Collection Unit for the “Deputy Commissioner’s Briefing.”

Although the reason is unclear, a police source said that the Intelligence Division is in charge of the data bank of all informants.

The briefing report confirms Woods’s claim during his first murder trial that he had been a secret informant for the NYPD.

His account was largely disregarded and the police department has never acknowledged his role as a paid informant.

According to the briefing report, Woods began working for the NYPD on Feb. 8, 2007, and was officially registered and approved by the Intelligence Division two weeks later.

The briefing report noted that Woods had had nine previous arrests and nine convictions, including two felonies, one of which was a violent one.

The report described Woods as having “provided information which has led to the arrests of 5 perpetrators and the recovery of four firearms” and added that “he has been paid a total of $1,600 by this Department for that activity.”

In his first quarterly evaluation, on March 3, 2007, he was rated “good.”

In his second on June 14, a month before Timoshenko’s murder, he was rated “excellent.”

Some in the police department suspect that Woods supplied the weapons used to shoot Timoshenko and wound his partner, Herman Yan, after the pair stopped a stolen car that Woods had been driving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn at 2 A.M.

Woods’s passengers inside the stolen BMW SUV were Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis.

As the officers approached the car at the corner of Rogers Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, Bostic shot Timoshenko in the face with a .45-caliber pistol and Ellis shot Yan with a 9mm. semiautomatic handgun. Police said Woods had a loaded Tec-9, but Woods claimed he didn’t fire the weapon.

After a four-day manhunt that stretched across three states, all three were apprehended and convicted.

Woods and Bostic were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ellis was convicted of weapons possession and sentenced to 15 years. Last month he was convicted of an unrelated armed robbery the day before he shot Yan and given an additional 25 years in prison.

A law enforcement source said Brooklyn prosecutors learned that Woods was “an occasional informant on guns” during their investigation. But it remains unclear whether the police provided this information or whether prosecutors learned this on their own.

“It had zero effect on the prosecution,” the source added.

Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, declined comment.

Neither of the NYPD spokespersons Paul Browne and Inspector Kim Royster responded to an email, inquiring about Woods’s role as an informant.

Despite his testimony that he was a paid NYPD informant, his attorney, Samuel Karliner, said last week that he himself was “not certain he was a paid C.I. I never verified it completely,” he said.

Woods’s testimony was that he had met up with Bostic and Ellis to buy and resell guns on the night of July 8, 2007, with the intention of tipping off detectives at the 101 precinct with whom he had been working.

A mistrial was declared after a juror became ill and Woods was tried again. Patrick Michael Megaro, Woods’s second attorney, said he was unaware that Woods was a paid informant but said such information was irrelevant because Woods did not testify at his second trial.

Dealing with confidential informants has always been a dangerous and tricky business for law enforcement agencies. Many informants are mob-connected, have long criminal records and agendas of their own. When things go wrong, the results can be both embarrassing and perilous.

Recall Whitey Bulger, perhaps the most notorious informant of recent years, who, while serving for two decades as an informant for the FBI in Boston, committed a score of murders involving both gang rivals and innocent civilians. Until his capture last year, he had been a fugitive for 15 years.

In the 1970s, the New York office of the FBI used an informant named Michael Orlando who also killed a number of people while working for the Bureau. His killings became public in the mid-1980s when he claimed he had killed one of his victims on the order of a mobster who Bronx prosecutors attempted to link to former Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan. Donovan was tried and acquitted.

The NYPD, which regards its detectives as more street-smart and savvy than FBI agents, seems to have its own troubles with its paid informants.

Last Saturday the New York Times reported that Ivan Chavez, a longtime NYPD informant, was a middleman in the theft of guns by police officer Nicholas Mina of the 9th precinct, who allegedly stole them from fellow officers.

And Woods appears to have out-foxed his NYPD handlers in the five months he served as an informant.

According to the briefing report, three different officers served as his handler during that time.

“He was an informant that was charged with getting intel on gun and drug dealers when in fact he was the gun dealer,” said an Intelligence Division source.

“ He would ask unsuspecting people to hold guns so that he could call in the $1,000 reward on them. If he had a gun that he couldn't sell on the street or if the reward money was greater then the gun itself, it made perfect business sense.”

TAKING CREDIT WHEN THE SUN SHINES. Here’s yet another reason to question the information issued by the NYPD’s famed Public Information Office.

Let’s start with last Thursday’s Daily News editorial about Lin Huan Quiang, a despondent Chinese man who last Monday was threatening to jump from the Verrazano Bridge. As Emergency Service personnel tried to talk him down, they discovered that he didn’t speak English.

As the News wrote: “A call went out for a Cantonese speaker, and Officer Yi Huang of Chinatown’s 5th Precinct was soon on the scene. Not only did Huang and the potential jumper have a common language, they hailed from the same village in China.

“Huang spoke about family and milestones to look forward to, such as weddings and grandchildren, and averted a suicide. In so doing, he demonstrated the benefits New York derives from having the most diverse police force anywhere.”

All well and good, except for one significant fact: the cop who talked the jumper off the bridge was not Huang. It was Eddie Fung, an MTA Bridge and Tunnel cop who arrived first on the scene. Fung, who speaks Chinese, spent literally four hours establishing a relationship with the jumper before Huang arrived from the Fifth precinct.

Fung and the jumper bonded sufficiently so that at the end of the ordeal, the jumper requested that Fung ride with him in the ambulance.

The writer of the News’s editorial cannot be faulted. The editorial’s narrative followed that of the news stories that week, all of which came from the NYPD’s Public Information office. Those stories all cited Huang of the Fifth precinct. None mentioned Eddie Fung.

But a group of NYPD officers did know that Fung had saved a life — and made a special trip to thank him.

They were the ESU cops who had responded to the bridge and realized that Fung had not received the credit he deserved. On Thursday some of them went to the Bridge and Tunnel officers’ administrative building on the Staten Island side of the bridge to congratulate the unsung hero.


Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt