Stolen P. C. police evidence seized during March drug bust
The stash of drugs and thousands of dollars stolen from the Port Chester Police Department's evidence locker stem from the arrest of a suspected Port Chester drug dealer in March, according to several sources.
The house at 9
After a joint investigation by the Westchester County Police Narcotics Unit and the Port Chester police, Dominic Patafio was pulled over in his van on Mar. 22 at the intersection of Sycamore Lane and College Avenue. Hiding in the air vent of his vehicle, there was a small clear plastic bag containing a white powdery substance that turned out to be cocaine. After securing a warrant to search his house, the police combed 9 Sycamore La.
"They found numerous drugs throughout the house," said Port Chester Police Lieutenant James Ladeairous.
The drugs the police confiscated at Patafio's house included oxycodone, hydrocodone, marijuana and more cocaine.
"There has been drug activity in that house for years is my understanding," said Port Chester Trustee and Police Commissioner Sam Terenzi.
Patafio was charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class A-1 felony, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony, and second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a class D felony. The maximum sentence for a class A-1 felony in New York for a drug charge is 30 years in prison.
Patafio, who is being represented by Bruno Gioffre, Jr., whose law office is in Purchase, is due in Westchester County court on Monday, Sept. 16.
"The case is up here," said Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. "It's probably being negotiated between his attorney and our office and the judge in terms
of what the outcome is going to be." If a deal cannot be reached, Patafio will be indicted by the Port Chester Village Court for the various felony counts and the process for a trial in county court will begin.
Since the case is still pending, Chalfen would not speak specifically about how the missing evidence could impact the judicial process. In general, however, if the prosecution cannot present evidence for one reason or another, that is not sufficient grounds to get a case tossed out. "What it does mean is it doesn't exactly strengthen our case," he said.
Investigation into missing evidence continues
It is unknown whether or not the evidence was stolen in an effort to derail the case or if it was just a matter of opportunity.
"They're either very, very smart or very, very stupid. Either somebody is hiding something or they're incompetent. Either way it's not good," Terenzi said. "Somebody knew the door was open, knew something was in there that was going to compromise the case. Who did it, I don't know. Who's responsible, I don't know."
At least three police brass, Ladeairous, Detective Lieutenant Royal Monroe and Chief Joseph Krzeminski, have keys to the evidence lockup, where the $27,000 and stash of drugs were being kept.
"I have a key for it," Ladeairous said.
"I have keys for everything because I'm more or less the building manager," he added. "I'm like the janitor."
Although there is a camera facing the door of the evidence room that was discovered unlocked, it does not show who is responsible.
"It's clear it was an inside job. There is a camera, but there is no tape," Terenzi said. "No one admitted it was left open on purpose. Who was the last guy in there? We don't know."
"Every member of the Port Chester Police Department has been affected by this incident that arose out of the selfish and illegal act committed by an individual or individuals," said Port Chester Mayor and Police Commissioner Neil Pagano in reading a written statement during the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3. "Every good, honest cop who is on the street every day protecting you and me and continues to do his or her job in a dedicated and serious manner is taking the hit for this incident. Every honest and hardworking civilian that is employed by the department and who has access to the building is also in the line of fire."
Pagano further said that he will not entertain any questions or comments about the investigation until it "has reached a point where there is something material to report."
"Make no mistake. Silence on the part of the village and/or its elected officials does not mean that matters have come to a halt whether it takes weeks or months," he added. "We do not intend to let this matter go quietly into the night."