Philly police accused of looting stores after dismantling video cameras


Carlos Miller

Philadelphia police dismantled several video cameras as they raided a bodega looking for tiny ziplock bags.

Yes, the same plastic baggies you can buy in any Walgreen’s to divide your vitamins into daily doses. Philly police consider the bags drug paraphernalia.

Obviously, things have changed in the City of Brotherly Love since our nation’s forefathers signed the Constitution in Independence Hall in 1787.

During the raid, police cut the chords of several video surveillance cameras in the store.

Then, once the cameras were not functioning, police proceeded to loot almost $10,000 in cash as well as several cartons of cigarettes, bodega owner Jose Duran told the Philadelphia Daily News.

The officers didn’t “touch the money with the system looking,” said Duran, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic 15 years ago and has no prior criminal record in Philadelphia.

Police claim they only confiscated $785 in cash.

But the fact that they purposely dismantled all the cameras in the store before seizing the money doesn’t bolster their credibility.

Unknowing to police, Duran had the cameras set up so they would download the footage to his home computer, which is why the above video and the two below were salvaged during the 2007 raid.

The video also calls into question the validity of the search warrant that enabled the officers to raid Duran’s store.

In a search-warrant application, Officer Richard Cujdik – Jeffrey Cujdik’s brother – wrote that he “observed” a confidential informant enter Duran’s store to buy tiny ziplock bags at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2007.

The informant left the store two minutes later and handed two bags to Richard Cujdik, according to the search-warrant application.

Two-and-a-half hours later, at about 7 p.m., the Cujdik brothers and four other officers, including Tolstoy, Thomas Kuhn, Anthony Parrotti and squad supervisor Sgt. Joseph Bologna raided the store.

The Daily News watched the time-stamped Sept. 11 surveillance footage between 4 and 5 p.m.: Not a single customer asked for or bought a ziplock bag.

The Daily News also reported that several other shop owners went through the same experience that year from the same group of cops, only to return from jail to find their store looted.

ON A SWELTERING July afternoon in 2007, Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his narcotics squad members raided an Olney tobacco shop.

Then, with guns drawn, they did something bizarre: They smashed two surveillance cameras with a metal rod, said store owners David and Eunice Nam.

The Nams were arrested for selling tiny ziplock bags that police consider drug paraphernalia, but which the couple described as tobacco pouches.

When they later unlocked their store, the Nams allege, they discovered that a case of lighter fluid and handfuls of Zippo lighters were missing. The police said they seized $2,573 in the raid. The Nams say they actually had between $3,800 and $4,000 in the store.

At least one of the officers, Jeffrey Cujdik, is under federal investigation because of the tight relationships he formed with his informants.

At least three former police informants who worked with Cujdik told the Daily News that he often gave them cartons of cigarettes.

“When he raided a corner store, he’d give me cigarettes,” said Tiffany Gorham, a former Cujdik informant.

Cujdik is at the center of an expanding federal and local probe into allegations that he lied on search-warrant applications to gain access to suspected drug homes and that he became too close with his informants. He rented a house to one and allegedly provided bail money to Gorham.

The fact that a judge would grant these cops a search warrant which allowed them to raid legitimate businesses over plastic baggies just goes to prove that the War on Drugs is a complete failure.


Citizen Journalism