By Jason Sickles / The Dallas Morning News
A second Dallas police officer suspected of stealing thousands of dollars from drug dealers and undocumented Mexican immigrants has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, a Police Department source said Friday. Officer Quentis R. Roper, 32, a former local football standout, has not been arrested or charged with a crime. The source, who asked not to be identified, declined to say why Officer Roper is a suspect. Officer Roper, a seven-year veteran, could not be reached for comment. Bob Baskett, his attorney, said Officer Roper has done nothing wrong. "It is a drug dealer who claims he has taken some money," Mr. Baskett said. "He's not a credible witness. He's a drug dealer." A police investigation into the alleged thefts became public Sunday night when Officer Daniel E. Maples Jr., 26, surrendered at Grand Prairie police headquarters. Detective John Brimmer, a Grand Prairie police spokesman, said the officer said he was turning himself in because he feared drug dealers with whom he'd had contact in the past would hurt his loved ones. "The drug dealers had allegedly threatened him that if he didn't give back their money, they'd hurt his girlfriend and baby," Detective Brimmer said. It is unknown why Officer Maples, a Dallas officer since 1995, turned himself in to Grand Prairie police. That department has not been involved in the investigation. "He voluntarily stayed here until the [Dallas police] public integrity unit arrived," Detective Brimmer said. Dallas investigators did not arrest Officer Maples but did take away his badge and gun while in the Grand Prairie police station, he said. The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, sources said. Officer Maples and his attorneys have declined to comment on the investigation. Police officials also continued to decline to discuss specifics of the case. "Any time information is developed or comes to the attention of the department in which it appears an employee is involved in criminal conduct, we owe it to every man and woman of the Dallas Police Department and the citizens of Dallas to fully and thoroughly investigate the allegations," Executive Assistant Chief Willard Rollins said. "We will not tolerate this type of behavior." The two officers are the only police employees believed to have been placed on leave because of the investigation. A source said it may take several more weeks before the inquiry ends. Police sources said detectives learned of the alleged theft about a year ago, when several of the victims complained that the officers had taken money from them. Sources have said the scheme targeted Mexican citizens who may have feared deportation if they reported the thefts. Others are believed to be drug dealers who said the officers would arrest them at apartments and motels, confiscate whatever money they had on hand and keep it. One source estimated the officers have taken in $10,000 to $12,000, but a second source said the amounts could be much higher. Officers Roper and Maples both work nights and patrol northeast Dallas. As many as 15 of their colleagues have been questioned in recent months by investigators, a source said. Department records show that neither officer has ever been disciplined for serious administrative violations. Officer Maples has received seven commendations, and Officer Roper has been given 48. Senior Cpl. Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, said it is hard for him to believe that Officer Roper is guilty. "He is the epitome of a beat officer," Cpl. White said. "He takes an active role in the community on-duty and off-duty." Officer Roper was a star quarterback for Pinkston High School in West Dallas in the late '80s. He went on to play at Rice University and for the Dallas Texans arena football team. "He said to hell with an athletic career and decided to be a policeman," Cpl. White said. "He's the kind of guy you would let your sister date."
The officer, under investigation for sex with a minor, was at his Seminole condo.
By JANE MEINHARDT and ERIC STIRGUS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 18, 1998
SEMINOLE -- For the third time in his nine-year career, investigators wanted to talk to Largo police Officer John F. Ferraro about allegations of improper sexual activity. This time, the questions ended with a gunshot. Ferraro put a gun to his head early Thursday and pulled the trigger as Pinellas County sheriff's deputies tried to serve a search warrant at his Seminole condominium, officials said. The warrant was part of an investigation into allegations that Ferraro, 37, was having sex with a 16-year-old girl. Officials said he met the girl when he responded to a recent call involving her. Ferraro was accused of having consensual sex with the girl at his condominium while off duty. A charge involving having sex with a minor is a felony. According to Largo police, Ferraro knew he was under investigation. After a preliminary investigation that began Tuesday indicated criminal activity may have occurred, Largo officers turned over the investigation to sheriff's detectives because the alleged offenses happened outside city limits. Early Thursday, sheriff's detectives prepared to serve a warrant and began watching Ferraro's rented condominium at 10126 Seminole Island Drive. Overlooking Lake Seminole, the second-floor apartment he lived in is on the east end of Willow Point Condominiums. Sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie said that when detectives arrived with a search warrant at 4:30 a.m., deputies went to Ferraro's condo and knocked on the door. "They heard what they described as a muffled sound that may have been a shot," Dennie said. "Then they didn't hear anything else." Because Ferraro had access to guns and was not responding to telephone calls to his condo, the sheriff's SWAT Team surrounded the building. After firing tear gas canisters and throwing shock grenades into the condominium, deputies broke in about 11 a.m. They found Ferraro dead in his bedroom from what officials said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He did not use his police-issued handgun, which he left in his department locker after working the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift Wednesday. His father, John Ferraro, said Thursday that he planned to come to Largo from New York. "I don't know much about what happened," he said. "Right now, I'm still trying to figure everything out." Ferraro was not married, but had a son. Pinellas civil court records show he was having sex with an 18-year-old woman in 1993, when he was 32, and she had a son in April 1994. After she went to court in 1996 to seek child support, a DNA test showed Ferraro was the boy's father. He was paying $218 biweekly for child support. Also in 1993, Largo police investigated two separate sexual misconduct allegations involving Ferraro. Records showed investigators determined there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations. One case involved a Lake Placid girl who said he had sex with her at his apartment and gave her mixed drinks. According to Largo police spokesman Mac Williams, the girl was 16. Ferraro denied having sex with her and said she brought her own drinks. In the other investigation, a woman Ferraro dated for several months said he went to her apartment and raped her. He said the sex was consensual. In December 1995, Ferraro shot and killed 23-year-old Andy Tolmie of Pinellas Park. Ferraro was following Tolmie's truck after it hit a curb and went into a parking lot off Highland Avenue. Blowing out other tires while circling around in the lot, the truck ended up with four flat tires. Police said Tolmie rammed Ferraro's cruiser and hit another cruiser that blocked his path. Ferraro fired four shots through the passenger side window of the truck. Tolmie died later at Bayfront Medical Center. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe ruled the shooting justifiable. Two years later, Largo commissioners agreed to pay Tolmie's parents $25,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit. In May, Ferraro was reprimanded for leaving his gun in his cruiser. He was suspended for a day in October for missing state attorney's investigative meetings. Ferraro received two distinguished service medals during his career and numerous letters of commendation. "He was a very aggressive officer in terms of investigating something," Largo police Chief Jerry Bloechle said. "He was dogged, determined and thorough. He was so aggressive he interrupted armed robberies, which is real unusual. He was a high-producing officer." Police officials had no indication that anything improper was going on in Ferraro's life. "We never suspected any other side, if you will," Bloechle said. "That came and went, with specific allegations (in 1993.) We thought he was past all that and were confident in his abilities. "We basically tripped over this (the latest accusations) as part of another investigation. We were floored. There is no question in any officer's mind had (the accusations) proven true . . . and it looked that way, he was in serious trouble with discipline and he was in serious trouble with the law." When he filled out an application to become a Largo officer, Ferraro wrote: "My goals as a police officer are to attain the respect of my community by both enforcing the laws and, when needed, use my discretion." Some of Ferraro's neighbors at Willow Point Condominiums described him as aloof and quiet. Others thought he helped make the complex a good place to live. None said they had seen him with a young girl, although he was in the pool with an attractive woman a week ago. "He never bothered anybody," said Sharon Brose, who lives in the condo below Ferraro's. "I talked to him two days ago, and he was looking forward to Christmas. I always felt safe knowing he was there."
Officers disciplined in abuse inquiries
One officer is fired and another suspended after they are charged with domestic violence.
By JANE MEINHARDT
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 2, 1999
Laredo prosecutor's corruption trial begins
By The Associated Press
LAREDO, Texas -- The corruption trial of prosecutor Ramon Villafranca, accused of taking bribes from drug defendants, started Monday.
Villafranca's trial is expected to last more than three weeks and involve more than 100 secretly-recorded audiotapes. The case is the culmination of a two-year investigation into corruption in the 49th Judicial District Attorney's office for Webb and Zapata counties. Villafranca, 58, is accused of taking bribes from at least three drug defendants in exchange for promises of reduced or dismissed sentences. He denies doing anything wrong. Ruben Garcia, a former state district judge who was working as a private attorney at the time, has pleaded guilty to related extortion charges and is cooperating with investigators. Two others have also pleaded guilty to case-fixing related charges, including Roy McCoy, a Tennessee man who allegedly paid Garcia and Villafranca $8,000 to have drug charges against him dropped. The federal investigation first came to public attention in May, when FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided the office of District Attorney Joe Rubio, hauling away thousands of files in a rented truck. Despite much speculation, Villafranca was the only prosecutor indicted for corruption. A jury was picked on Monday, and opening statement were scheduled for later in the day. U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle, the chief prosecutor in the case, is expected to introduce more than 100 audiotapes containing secretly-recorded conversations between Villafranca and others. "You're talking about a massive amount of evidence," Octavio Salinas, one of three attorneys defending Villafranca, told the Laredo Morning Times. Garcia is expected to testify in the trial along with Jesse James Salas, a government informant who represented himself as a freelance bounty hunter and karate instructor. McCoy is another potential witness. Villafranca, a former middle school principal and teacher of special education students, has maintained his innocence. He currently is assigned to administrative duties at the district attorney's office pending outcome of the trial.
Distributed by The Associated Press (AP)