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Former Stoughton detective is guilty

Admits to lying, promises to aid corruption probe

By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / January 7, 2010

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A former Stoughton police detective admitted in federal court yesterday that he lied to FBI agents during an investigation into alleged police corruption and has promised to help authorities in the probe, which appears to be widening.

Arlindo Romeiro, the former detective, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to one count of making false statements on July 13. Romeiro had denied knowing that Stoughton police officers had received stolen gift cards and merchandise from an informant secretly cooperating with the FBI, when, in fact, he was among the recipients, a federal prosecutor said.

Although the 37-year-old former police officer was composed during 10 minutes on the witness stand at his change-of-plea hearing, he left the courtroom holding his eyeglasses and brushing away tears. He declined to comment as he walked down a corridor with about a dozen family members and supporters.

His lawyer, Daniel W. O’Malley of Quincy, said he, too, would not comment until his client’s sentencing April 8.

“I think it’s premature for me to say anything,’’ O’Malley said.

One Romeiro supporter who declined to identify himself called the former detective a “good, honest man.’’ Romeiro resigned in November.

Romeiro, the latest Stoughton police officer ensnared in a series of scandals that have rocked the department in recent years, faces a maximum of five years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend that he serve 10 to 16 months in prison, according to Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly, who oversees the public corruption unit.

In exchange for Romeiro’s promised cooperation, prosecutors are expected to recommend that US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris sentence him to less than that.

After the hearing, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement, “False statements by a police officer are unacceptable and will be prosecuted if they arise in the course of a federal investigation.’’

In a bare-bones summary presented in court, Kelly said FBI agents spent most of last year investigating allegations of corruption against the Stoughton Police Department. The cooperating witness told agents that he gave stolen Best Buy and Home Depot gift cards and other merchandise to officers. The officers, in turn, allegedly provided the witness with confidential law enforcement information, including data about motorists from the Registry of Motor Vehicles that the witness used to make phony identification documents.

When FBI agents asked Romeiro whether he knew of officers receiving stolen goods and supplying such information, he said no, even though he himself had made such exchanges with the witness, Kelly said.

Authorities captured exchanges on videotapes and audiotapes.

Kelly did not identify the cooperating witness. But three people who are familiar with the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Globe in September that a longtime informant for former Stoughton police detective Anthony Bickerton began cooperating with authorities after the informant was arrested on a number of charges. The informant has a lengthy criminal record that includes arrests for drugs, burglary, forgery, and assault and battery.

Bickerton, a member of Stoughton’s School Committee, retired from the police force in September after 30 years. Joseph F. Krowski Sr., a Brockton lawyer with whom Bickerton has been consulting, said Bickerton has done nothing wrong and retired at least partly because of the atmosphere in the scandal-plagued department.

“As you know, there’s been a lot of pressure on a lot of cops who did nothing wrong but got caught up in this antipolice maelstrom in Stoughton, and a lot of guys have just had it,’’ Krowski said.

Kelly declined to say whether the corruption investigation is widening. Krowski said he believes that it is and that authorities will use Romeiro’s cooperation to target higher-ups.

“I guess they call it the ladder technique,’’ Krowski said.

The Stoughton police force has been in turmoil for years and has not had a permanent chief since March 2005, when Chief Manuel J. Cachopa was placed on administrative leave following his indictment on charges of being an accessory to attempted extortion. Last January he was convicted of the charge, which stemmed from allegations that he tried to hinder an investigation into whether Sergeant David Cohen abused his authority in 2002 while attempting to collect a debt from a local businessman.

Cachopa was placed on probation. Cohen, who was convicted of attempted extortion and witness intimidation in 2007, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Last February, a Stoughton supervisor of detectives who was removed from his post in 2005 won a federal lawsuit against the town after arguing that his demotion was retaliation for his helping to investigate misconduct by Cachopa and Cohen. The plaintiff, Robert J. Welch, was awarded more than $165,000 at the trial and got his job back.

Hillary A. Schwab, a Boston lawyer who represented Welch, said she believes that “the Police Department is broken.’’

Stoughton’s acting police chief, Thomas Murphy, did not return phone calls.

Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.