An eighth Baltimore police officer was arrested on federal racketeering charges on Wednesday in the growing scandal that has engulfed the department's elite gun task force.
Federal prosecutors allege that the officer, a former leader of the unit, "stole money from victims, some of whom had not committed crimes, swore out false affidavits and submitted false official incident reports."
He did so, they allege in an indictment, while overseeing and covering for other officers committing similar crimes.
Sgt. Thomas Allers, 49, of Linthicum Heights, a member of the city Police Department since 1996, was arrested Wednesday on nine counts of robbery and extortion.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said his arrest could lead prosecutors to drop charges against individuals he arrested.
Allers oversaw the Gun Trace Task Force, a special unit that investigated gun crimes, from 2013 until mid-2016. Seven other members of the unit were indicted in March on similar racketeering charges. They are accused of robbing people, filing false court paperwork and submitting fraudulent overtime claims.
Prosecutors allege that Allers stole more than $90,000 in a series of robberies and that one resident he stole from was subsequently shot and killed "because he could not repay a drug-related debt."
They also allege that Allers covered for the other indicted officers by filing false incident reports and "obstructed law enforcement by alerting other members of the [gun task force] about potential investigations of their criminal conduct."
Some of the incidents are alleged to have occurred as the U.S. Department of Justice was reviewing the Police Department's actions and policies. Justice investigators reported last summer that city officers routinely practiced discriminatory and unconstitutional policing that included conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, particularly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. The city and the Justice Department have agreed to a court-enforced consent decree that mandates sweeping reforms to policing.
The Police Department has also been dealing in recent weeks with the fallout from a series of body-camera videos that prosecutors and defense attorneys have flagged as questionable.
Defense attorneys say some of the videos appear to show officers planting drugs on criminal defendants. Police deny those accusations. Prosecutors have dropped or are reviewing hundreds of criminal cases related to the officers in those videos.
In announcing the indictment against Allers on Wednesday, Maryland U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning urged the public to maintain its trust in police.
"As disheartening as the conduct outlined in this indictment may be," he said in a statement, "the community needs to have confidence that dedicated law enforcement will not tolerate it."
Allers was led in handcuffs into a federal courtroom in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. There, he answered questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir. "He told Copperthite that he understood the charges against him and the maximum penalties he faces if found guilty.
His attorney, Gary Proctor, declined to comment. Two women in the courtroom who said they were members of Allers' family declined to speak about him or the case.
Allers was ordered held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday morning.
Police said Wednesday that Allers had been suspended since March 1, the day the other officers were indicted.
"I condemn any and all criminal activity that erodes our trust with the community," Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement. "We are and have been embedded with the FBI/Baltimore field office's Public Corruption Task Force. This partnership ensures that police officers that commit criminal misconduct will face the certainty of accountability."
Allers left the Gun Trace Task Force in June 2016 and was assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force, the DEA said.
Two of the seven officers indicted in March have pleaded guilty to the charges against them. Others have pleaded not guilty. Two have scheduled rearraignments, during which they could change their not-guilty pleas to guilty pleas. One has not entered a plea.
The March indictments led Mosby's office to drop 77 criminal cases that relied on the testimony of the officers. More than 100 other cases are under review.
Mosby said Wednesday that the allegations against Allers "not only undermine public trust in the criminal justice system but have a direct impact on public safety," and necessitate a similar, resource-intensive review of closed and pending criminal cases that rely on his testimony.
"As prosecutors, we will remain vigilant in our pursuit of justice on all fronts and we will continue to do our part to restore public trust and build confidence in the criminal justice system," she said in a statement.
The Maryland public defender's office said it would be reviewing cases linked to Allers as well.
Federal prosecutors in Schenning's office outlined several incidents in which they allege Allers committed crimes.
In one incident, they say in the indictment, Allers was executing a warrant in Baltimore County with two other officers in March 2014 when they found "a drawer full of money" that was "bundled in multiple stacks" in an upstairs bedroom.
Prosecutors say Allers told the other officers that the homeowner "wouldn't miss a stack," or words to that effect, and took some of the cash from the drawer. Afterwards, prosecutors say in the indictment, the other two officers and Allers' adult son each took cash from the drawer.
Prosecutors would not comment further on the allegation that Allers' son, who was not named, was involved in the alleged theft, or whether he faces criminal charges.
A call to Allers' home in Linthicum Heights on Wednesday was not answered.
In April 2015, prosecutors say, Allers and other officers were executing a search warrant in a Baltimore home when they found $6,000 that was "a combination of money that the homeowners had made buying and selling used cars and a tax refund the wife had received."
Prosecutors say Allers and the other officers stole $5,700, and "then filed a false incident report stating that only $233 had been seized."
In March 2016, prosecutors say, Allers and other officers executed a search warrant in the Baltimore home of a woman who "had $200 in her purse, which her daughter had received the previous day during her birthday party, $900 to pay her rent for that month, $300 to pay down the amount of money she owed Baltimore Gas & Electric for utilities and $8,000 which was the proceeds of drug sales."
Prosecutors say Allers gave another officer a portion of the cash — "Here is some lunch money," he allegedly said — and then "approved the false report that stated that only $1,624 had been seized from home, when in fact, he had stolen more than $7,000."
In April 2016, prosecutors say, Allers and other officers "robbed a residence" after arresting a person who lived there.
"Allers approved a false incident report which failed to report that any money had been taken from the residence, when in fact he and his co-conspirators stole more than $10,000," prosecutors say. "Following this robbery, one of the residents was shot and killed because he could not repay a drug-related debt."
The indictment of Allers adds to the latest charges in the broader case. In July, prosecutors filed additional robbery charges against three of the seven officers initially charged and new charges against two civilians, whom they accused of impersonating police officers to commit an armed robbery.
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Allers made a salary of $93,244 in 2016, according to a city salary database. With overtime, he took home $119,993.
In 1997, when Allers was a 28-year-old patrolman in the Southern District with nine months on the force, he shot a 40-year-old man to death. Police said the man had stabbed two women inside a rowhouse and then lunged for Allers' weapon.
If convicted of the current charges, Allers could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
People convicted in Baltimore Circuit Court since 2015 who are serving a sentence or on probation based on charges involving seven recently indicted police officers may be eligible to have their conviction vacated, the Office of the Public Defender said Thursday morning.