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NY officer accused of leading drug robbery crew pleads not guilty

By Dana Garrett and Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
 Alleged crooked NYPD officer Jose Tejada's service weapon, which was allegedly used in a hold-up.
Alleged crooked NYPD officer Jose Tejada's service weapon, which was allegedly used in a hold-up.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: New York Police Officer Jose Tejada pleads not guilty to robbery, drug charges
  • He is accused of leading a crew that robbed drug dealers of money, inventory
  • Crew had committed more than 100 robberies since 2001, officials say

New York (CNN) -- A veteran New York police officer accused of equipping a robbery crew with state-of-the art police equipment and helping them loot drug dealers out of $1 million pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday.

Jose Tejada, 45, also is accused of allowing the robbery crew to use his Manhattan apartment for their enterprise.

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the crew posed as police officers and used fake warrants to arrest drug traffickers.

The crew then robbed those it arrested of their money and their stashes of marijuana, heroin, ecstasy and cocaine, authorities said.

In all, the group -- comprising Tejada and at least 21 others -- is responsible for more than 100 armed robberies throughout New York City since 2001, according to officials.

The New York Police Department officer, arrested Wednesday, faces multiple counts of robbery, drug dealing and weapons charges.

A U.S. magistrate on Thursday ordered Tejada to remain in custody.

Prosecutors said they had "overwhelming evidence" and argued the man presented a continuing danger to the community.

But the officer's court-appointed attorney, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, said his client was not a flight risk and had remained on the force while on modified duty.

"If there was a danger, what's been going on the last four years?" Margulis-Ohnuma asked, referring to the length of the investigation.

Margulis-Ohnuma said that Tejada "adamantly denies" the charges and said they will be "vehemently challenging them."

It is unclear what made police begin to investigate Tejada, who started with the department in 1996.

In 2006 and 2007, Tejada participated in three robberies, prosecutors say, stealing thousands of dollars while dressed in his police uniform. In one of the cases, the crew stormed a Bronx home searching for cocaine.

"The crew mistakenly believed the residents to be drug dealers," court documents said. "In fact, the residents were a family of three, including a teenager, who had no involvement in drug dealing."

The crew did not find drugs but searched the home while Tejada held the family at gunpoint, prosecutors allege. Once they left, the family called 911.

Tejada, a father of two, faces a minimum of 17 years in prison if convicted. His wife cried throughout the court proceedings Thursday and left without speaking to reporters.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday, "Obviously it's sad and disappointing any time a police officer is arrested, but this officer has been on modified duty for three years, so this investigation has taken a long time to come to fruition, and it's still not over. ... the officer has been arrested, suspended, and we'll see what the outcome of the trial is."

N.Y. cop accused of hiring hit man to kill witness

CNN's Dana Garrett reported from New York. Lateef Mungin reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Julie Cannold contributed to this report.

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