Norris indicted by U.S.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris has been charged with illegally spending about $20,000 in Baltimore police funds while he was the city's top officer to cover personal expenses, including romantic liaisons with several women, according to a federal indictment unsealed yesterday.

Norris, 43, who is married, promptly resigned and is expected to appear in U.S. District Court for his initial hearing today on charges that he conspired to misapply funds, misapplied funds and made a false statement on a mortgage application three years ago.

Norris' former city chief of staff, John Stendrini, was also indicted on charges of misapplying the police money and is accused of obstructing justice by lying to city officials about how the expense account was used.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins - the state's secretary of veterans affairs, a retired state trooper and former member of the House of Delegates - acting state police superintendent.

Among the revelations in the indictment about Norris' spending from the obscure departmental expense account:

  • Norris made repeated trips to New York, where he had romantic encounters with women while staying at trendy hotels and dining at expensive restaurants.

  • The former commissioner bought personal items - from money clips to clothes, including a leather jacket for $371.61 - and stocked hundreds of dollars worth of liquor in his home.

  • He bought gifts for himself and others, including items for three women from a Victoria's Secret store the day before Valentine's Day in 2001.

    In announcing the indictment yesterday morning, Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said he was sending a message that he would not tolerate corruption at any level in law enforcement.

    "The defendants repeatedly used the fund as if it were their personal ATM, and repeatedly made withdrawals to pay for luxury hotels, expensive meals and clothes and gifts and to finance romantic encounters with several different women," DiBiagio said.

    "If a police commissioner repeatedly lies, cheats and steals and we look the other way, what message does that send to law enforcement officers on the street as they face opportunities of corruption every day?" DiBiagio said, adding that the investigation is continuing.

    When asked what Norris should have bought with the expense account, DiBiagio answered simply: "Bulletproof vests for his officers."

    Norris' attorney, Andrew Jay Graham, did not return several telephone messages seeking comment. Stendrini, 60, could not be reached.

    If convicted of all charges, Norris faces a maximum sentence of 45 years, and Stendrini could face 25.

    An attorney representing Norris' father, who was questioned before the grand jury, said prosecutors had wasted resources investigating the superintendent.

    "It is unfortunate that at a time when Maryland is facing increasing violent crime and the threat of terrorism, the United States has chosen to devote scarce resources to a matter that has been previously scrutinized and resolved by local officials," said Andrew C. White, the attorney for Edward Norris Sr.

    An independent audit financed by the city determined that Norris had authorized nearly $8,000 in personal and questionable expenses from the account. That amount was later deducted from his $137,000 severance package.

    Word of the indictment - which was handed up by a grand jury Tuesday and unsealed yesterday - spread quickly across the state. It forced two political rivals who had hired Norris for top policing jobs to grapple with the indictment's significance.

    In Annapolis, Ehrlich accepted Norris' resignation. Although he named Hutchins acting state police superintendent, he left open the possibility of Norris' return if he were acquitted.

    "Should the superintendent be exonerated, I think it is a matter of fundamental fairness that all due consideration be given to restoring one's job and reputation," Ehrlich said. "Obviously, Secretary Hutchins is in full agreement with that view."

    Ehrlich said he does not regret Norris' selection as Maryland's top police officer.

    "It was certainly our impression that all of this was behind him - and us - at the time," the governor said.

    Mayor speaks out

    Thirty miles away in Baltimore, Mayor Martin O'Malley said he felt betrayed by Norris' behavior.

    "It's a sad day," O'Malley said. "All of us take an oath. Those of us who hold a public trust have to be held to that trust."

    The mayor hired Norris in early 2000 from the New York Police Department and has said he did not know about the fund or how Norris was using it until its existence was exposed in an article by The Sun last year.

    At the time, O'Malley aggressively defended his police chief and only offered tepid criticism of Norris' accounting skills. The mayor ordered an outside audit and later withheld $7,663 from Norris' severance payment when he left the city department in December to become Ehrlich's state police superintendent.

    Federal inquiry

    The expense account originated as Great Depression-era charities and evolved into a discretionary fund controlled by the police commissioner. It has been transferred to the control of City Hall.

    The indictment, which hews closely to articles in The Sun last year about Norris' use of the account, accuses Norris and Stendrini of illegally spending thousands of dollars from the fund between May 2000 and July last year, when the newspaper exposed its existence.

    DiBiagio said yesterday that he launched the grand jury investigation several months after the articles appeared when he received a tip from a whistleblower that a "public official had engaged in serious misconduct and stolen money from the Police Department."

    According to the indictment, Norris and Stendrini wrote authorization letters to obtain checks from the department's fiscal unit saying expenses were for legitimate business purposes. Some of those letters were written months after the checks were issued.

    Norris authorized the spending of a little more than $159,000 from the fund during his tenure, much of it for legitimate purposes.

    A sizable chunk of the money - about $48,000 - was given to one of Norris' closest aides and police chauffeur, Agent Thomas Tobin, who is identified in the indictment only as a member of the executive protection unit, a squad of officers assigned to protect Norris. Tobin used much of that money to make purchases for Norris.

    Norris and Stendrini are accused of using the fund to finance romantic encounters with at least six women, who are not identified in the indictment. It is not clear if one of the women is Norris' wife, Kathryn.

    The indictment alleges that Norris used the former charity fund to pay for a broad range of items for personal use, including hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol bought by Tobin and delivered to the police commissioner's home.

    Norris also dined at expensive restaurants, spending $310 at the trendy Papillon in New York City in June 2001 and racking up a $210 bill at Pisces restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore seven months later.

    At least 17 alleged trips

    During his tenure as commissioner, Norris took at least 17 trips on the fund and is accused of spending more than $9,000 on personal expenses during those excursions, according to the indictment.

    He spent all or part of 32 days outside Baltimore on those trips, a review of the indictment shows.

    He visited his hometown of New York in September 2000 "for the purpose of shopping," costing the city $254.48, according to the indictment.

    A month later, he traveled to New York and stayed at the Best Western Seaport Inn for a romantic encounter with an unidentified woman. The hotel room cost the city $247.67, the indictment states.

    Just a few days after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Norris dispatched a bodyguard to New York and instructed him to remain there "in order to facilitate romantic encounters" with a woman, the indictment states. The commissioner also told the bodyguard to buy clothing for himself at Faconnable and other stores at a cost of $423.04 to the fund.

    According to the indictment, Norris slipped away from a law enforcement conference in Toronto in October 2001 and visited New York City for a "romantic encounter" with another woman. His stay at the W New York, a boutique hotel, and meals cost the city more than $1,400, the indictment alleges.

    During the same conference, according to the indictment, Stendrini visited a bed-and-breakfast near Niagara Falls in Canada for a romantic encounter. That trip cost $1,428, the indictment says.

    In May last year, Norris was scheduled to attend a terrorism conference in New York, but the meeting was canceled. Norris went anyway "for shopping and other personal reasons," staying at W New York at a cost of $495.12 and spending $284 at the Manhattan steakhouse Smith & Wollensky, a place he often frequented, the indictment alleges.

    In Baltimore, Norris used the account to finance at least one romantic encounter, the indictment states: On Dec. 6, 2001, he met with a woman at the Hyatt Regency downtown. The stay cost the city $123.75.

    DiBiagio said the romantic liaisons cost the city other money, as well, because bodyguards received overtime pay to "transport female companions in connection with romantic encounters and to sit around at residences and other locations while the defendants engaged in the romantic encounters."

    Prosecutors alleged that Norris also used the fund to finance personal activities in Baltimore. At an Orioles' game, Norris entertained friends, the manager of the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, his personal tailor and two women. He and Stendrini bought nearly $1,000 in merchandise, the indictment states.

    Purchase of home

    The indictment went beyond Norris' use of the account and delved into how he bought his Mount Washington home in December 2000. Norris was indicted on one count of lying on his mortgage application. The indictment said Norris received a $9,000 loan from one of his employees for the down payment but told his lender, the Municipal Employees Credit Union, that the money was a gift from his father.

    Sources have said the loan came from Tobin, who has been cooperating with federal authorities. His attorney, Scott D. Shellenberger, said yesterday that Tobin would continue to testify when requested to do so.

    "The indictment demonstrates that Agent Thomas Tobin did nothing wrong," Shellenberger said. "Agent Tobin is an honest man and a good police officer."

    $12,000 returned

    Norris stopped using the account in July last year after The Sun requested access to its expense records.

    At the time, police were unable to explain what happened to about $12,000 that was disbursed to Tobin. Late that July, Stendrini and Tobin returned envelopes containing cash in that amount to the fiscal unit.

    The indictment states that Stendrini lied to a top official in City Hall - identified as the first deputy mayor, who is Michael R. Enright - about what happened to the $12,000.

    Although Stendrini told Enright that the cash had been in Norris' office safe, the indictment alleges that the money had been spent for personal purposes.

    Stendrini was charged with obstruction of justice for the misstatements to Enright, prosecutors said.

    "When questioned about the use of the fund by the mayor's office," DiBiagio said yesterday, "the defendants lied about what they had done with the money and attempted to cover it up to conceal their illicit activities."

    "The defendants procured money through the fund through outright deceptive and dishonest conduct," he added.

    Sun staff writers Laura Barnhardt, Laura Vozzella, Doug Donovan, David Nitkin, Gail Gibson and news researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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