Four Toronto-area police officers are facing charges following an investigation that began after charges were stayed against an accused drug dealer, who alleged police stole items during a search of his storage locker.
Lowell Somerville alleges the Peel regional police officers stole items that included a statue of fictional character Tony Montana from the movie "Scarface," cash and various items of jewelry.
A judge stayed Somerville's charges of heroin trafficking, and possession of heroin, MDMA and cocaine in May 2017 after concluding the officers knew one of them had taken the statue and "chose not to tell the truth."
Peel police said Thursday that four officers — a sergeant and three constables — have each been charged with single counts of theft under $5,000 and obstructing police, and two counts of perjury.
All of the officers are suspended and are to appear in Brampton, Ont., court on June 4.
Chief Jennifer Evans says she immediately ordered an investigation into the conduct of the officers following the court ruling.
"Our officers are held to a high standard in order to maintain the trust that we have worked so hard to build with our community," Evans said Thursday in a statement.
Court documents show Peel police were conducting ongoing surveillance of Somerville and, on June 23, 2014, followed him to Toronto, where they saw him make what they believed was a hand-to-hand drug transaction.
The person to whom the drugs were believed to have been sold was arrested and found to have about a gram of cocaine in his possession.
After discovering the cocaine, police stopped Somerville in his car a few kilometres away and arrested him for trafficking, seizing one gram of heroin and one gram of methamphetamine, the documents say.
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While searching Somerville's apartment in Mississauga, Ont., police seized more drugs and also located documents indicating that Somerville leased a storage unit in Toronto, for which they got a search warrant.
Someville testified that after being released from custody on June 25, 2014, he went to the storage locker and noticed that things had been re-arranged and that there were items missing.
In addition to the Tony Montana statue, Somerville said other missing things included a gold chain with a king of spades pendant, a shoebox containing $25,000 in poker winnings, diamond earrings and gold rings.
Video surveillance evidence
Video surveillance from the storage facility showed one of the officers taking out a large object, court heard.
The officer testified he had taken a heater from a hallway in the facility that had a sign saying "please take" or "free" and all denied removing anything of value from Somerville's locker.
"In my view, there can be no question that the conduct of the police in this case prejudiced the integrity of the justice system," the judge said in issuing the stay.
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