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Detroit Police Officers Indicted on Federal Charges

By Dave Ashenfelter, Suzette Hackney and Ben Schmitt
Free Press Staff Writers

Seventeen Detroit Police officers have been indicted on federal charges ranging from looting money from drug dealers and prostitutes to possession of stolen firearms. The indictments were announced today by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey G. Collins. Named in the 21-page indictment are:

  • William Melendez, 34, of Livonia, of the 4th (Fort-Green) Precinct, also known as Robocop
  • Matthew Zani, 36, of Detroit, of the narcotics special enforcement section, also known as Spike
  • Jeffrey Weiss, 32, of Dearborn, of the 4th Precinct, also known as Joker
  • Troy Bradley, 36, Detroit, of the 4th Precinct
  • Christopher Ruiz, 29, now of Tampa, Fla., of the narcotics special enforcement section
  • Timothy Gilbert, 28, Detroit, of the 4th Precinct
  • Mark Diaz, 28, Detroit, of the 3rd (Vernor) Precinct
  • Jerrod Willis, 32, of Southgate, of the 4th Precinct
  • Chris Guinn, 39, of Detroit, of the 4th Precinct
  • Thomas Turkaly, 38, of Warren, of narcotics special enforcement section
  • Ricardo Villarruel, 34, of Detroit, of the 4th Precinct
  • John McLeod, 25, of Lincoln Park;
  • Denny Borg, 31, of Woodhaven, of the 4th Precinct
  • James Coss, 30 of Detroit, of the 4th Precinct
  • Stephen Petroff, 31, of Dearborn, of the 4th Precinct
  • Nicole Rich, 24, of St. Clair Shores
  • John Watkins, of the 4th Precinct

All 17 were indicted on one count of conspiracy against rights, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Eight officers were charged with additional civil rights violations. The indictment cited 21 instances of rogue conduct between April 2000 and December 2002. Zani was also indicted on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and use and carrying of firearm during crime of violence. Melendez was also indicted on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, possession of a stolen firearm and carrying of firearm during crime of violence. Watkins was also indicted on one count of possession of a stolen firearm. From April 29, 2000, to about June of this year, the indictment said the officers conspired with others to violate the constitutional rights of various people. The officers tried to identify people involved in drug trafficking and where they sold drugs by breaking into residences and conducting illegal searches for drugs. They also illegally detained people on the street, searched and questioned them, the indictment said.

If they found drugs, firearms or contraband during the illegal searches, they would decide which ones to arrest. Then they would falsify their police reports to justify the criminal charges and the initial searches and seizures, the indictment said. They sometimes kept some or all of the money, drugs or firearms they found during the searches, the indictment said. If they found too little contraband, the indictment said, they would plant drugs, guns or money, claiming they found them on or near the people chosen for the illegal arrest.

They also intimidated people they found inside the houses with threats of violence or illegal arrests, the indictment said. Sometimes, they used body cavity searches to demean the people they were trying to intimidate. In some cases, the officers would take money from the people they confronted in exchange for not arresting them, according to the indictment. Besides falsifying police reports, they also lied in court, the indictment said.

Contact Dave Ashenfelter at 313-223-44907.

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