Police inspector charged with extortion, bribery

April 20, 2011 3:38:21 PM PDT
A police inspector who aspired to head the city's department was indicted Friday for an extortion and bribery scheme in which he tried to have a "collector" use threats to recoup thousands of dollars from a real estate deal that didn't pan out, federal prosecutors said.

Carlo Daniel Castro, 47, was arrested Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced, the latest black mark for a police department that has seen an embarrassing string of in-house arrests in recent months.

In an effort to recoup $90,000 from an investment partner, Castro sought help from a witness cooperating with the FBI, instructing the witness to hire a "collector" to use threats of violence to collect $150,000 from the debtor, the indictment said. Castro ultimately accepted three payments totaling more than $21,000, authorities said.

Castro, the head of the traffic division, faces bribery and extortion charges. At an afternoon hearing, a federal judge ordered him released to house arrest on $100,000 bail, pending a Monday court hearing.

Wearing a sweatshirt and jogging pants, Castro quietly answered questions before the court and told the judge he had not yet obtained an attorney. A telephone message left at his home by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

The case began when Castro invested in an unspecified real estate project with an unnamed partner in June 2006. That person told Castro that he could earn a considerable return and would not lose money.

When the investment didn't pan out, Castro demanded a refund, but the partner wasn't able to do so, the indictment said. Castro then contacted the witness about finding a "collector," prosecutors said.

At one point, according to the indictment, Castro emphasized how he didn't want to get in trouble and told the witness not to tell anyone about his connection to the police department.

"I can't get myself in trouble," he allegedly told the witness. "I want to be police commissioner."

The indictment represented the latest in a string of in-house arrests in the department.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who has made a priority of rooting out corruption, said he had been aware of the investigation for months, and didn't think it would be the last one.

"I expect us to be standing here in the future," Ramsey said at a news conference with federal prosecutors, adding that Castro was the highest ranking person that he knew of to be arrested in the department. "We have a problem in the Philadelphia Police Department and I am committed to rooting it out."

Other recent cases have included two officers who allegedly robbed a supposed drug dealer of 20 pounds of marijuana and $3,000 cash, and a longtime officer who allegedly stole $825 from a bar where an officer was slain four years ago.

"When a person wearing that badge becomes a criminal, we all suffer," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said. "It is a sad day when we have to charge a Philadelphia police officer."