Norris probe widens to home


The federal investigation into former Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and his use of an off-the-books expense account and overtime paid to top aides has expanded to include his purchase of a home three years ago.

Norris' father, Edward Norris Sr., has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Baltimore in coming weeks to answer questions about the transaction, according to sources familiar with the case and close to Norris, who is the superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

At issue is the role played by the father and Norris' police driver in helping the former commissioner buy his Baltimore home in December 2000, said the sources, who requested anonymity because of the secret nature of the grand jury investigation.

Norris' father gave his son much of the money needed for the down payment on the house in 1900 block of Fairbank Road in Mount Washington, the sources said. According to land records, the down payment appeared to be $10,950.

Norris also accepted a check - for about the same amount as the check his father wrote - from his Police Department driver. Norris turned that check over to his father, who cashed it, the sources said.

It is not known whether Norris repaid the driver, Thomas Tobin, who is emerging as a central witness in the grand jury investigation.

Former federal prosecutors said that subpoenaing Norris' father shows that investigators are taking a thorough look at nearly every aspect of the former commissioner's life and not just examining his use of the off-the-books expense account, which apparently started the investigation.

"They are looking for every possible piece of information they can find," said David B. Irwin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense lawyer.

Attorneys representing Norris and Tobin declined to comment. Norris' father, who lives in New York, could not be reached.

It is not clear why Norris, who was earning about $137,000 a year as commissioner, needed Tobin's money. But Norris has run into financial difficulties in the past, which could have made it difficult for him to finance the down payment. In 1995, while a police commander in New York City, he filed for personal bankruptcy, declaring $2,600 in assets and $78,716.04 in liabilities, much of it related to an unpaid bank loan and credit card debt, the filing shows.

He was discharged from the debts, court records show.

Norris sold his Mount Washington home in September for $289,000, according to land records.

The investigation into the mortgage transaction is part of an inquiry by prosecutors into Norris' behavior, his spending from the off-the-books expense account and his use of bodyguards during his three years as commissioner. Federal prosecutors have declined to comment on their investigation.

His bodyguards earned tens of thousands of dollars in overtime, and prosecutors have subpoenaed department records that describe how the city agency dispenses the extra pay.

One of the main witnesses in the investigation appears to be Tobin, who is cooperating with federal investigators, sources have said.

Tobin was one of the highest overtime earners in the department, racking up $86,867.62 in overtime in 2001 and 2002. He makes about $58,000 a year in salary. The driver also received about $48,000 from the off-the-books "supplemental account" - which evolved from Depression-era charity funds to help needy police officers and others - to finance many purchases and trips for the commissioner.

The fund's existence came to light in August last year, and the city started an audit, which determined that the commissioner had $7,663 in personal or questionable expenses. City officials deducted that amount from Norris' $137,000 severance package when he left the department in December last year to join the state police as superintendent.

Since federal investigators and prosecutors working directly for U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio began investigating Norris this year, city officials and the commissioner's associates and bodyguards have been called to testify.

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