Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Washington Times Review of "Busted: A Tale Of Corruption And Betrayal In The City Of Brotherly Love"

My review of Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker's Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love appeared in today's Washington Times.

In 2008, a visibly frightened drug addict named Benny Martinez entered the offices of the Philadelphia Daily News and spoke to Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, two of the gritty tabloid newspaper’s investigative reporters.

Mr. Martinez, a confidential informant for a Philadelphia narcotics police officer named Jeff Cujdik, told the reporters that either the cops or the drug dealers he had informed on were going to kill him.

Mr. Martinez said that Mr. Cujdik used him to tell lies in the search warrants used to bust drug dealers. Mr. Martinez also claimed he rented a house from Mr. Cujdik and that their relationship had gone sour and Mr. Cujdik was evicting him. He showed the reporters his Landlord-Tenant Court paperwork, and he called Mr. Cujdik on his cellphone as the reporters listened in.

This meeting led the reporters to uncover serious allegations about Mr. Cujdik and his narcotics squad systematically looting bodega stores during raids staged owing to the owners selling Ziploc bags used by drug dealers. The officers destroyed video-surveillance cameras and cut wires, and one such act was captured on tape as the feed went directly to the owner’s home.

The reporters hit the street and interviewed 22 bodega owners, most of them recent legal immigrants, who had not called the police to complain about the thefts. Three women also told the reporters that one officer, Thomas Tolstoy, sexually molested them.

These allegations were presented in Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Laker's 10-month series, “Tainted Justice.” The newspaper series won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

The series also led to five officers being placed on desk duty and the formation of an FBI task force investigation.

Now Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Laker tell tell their story in a fast-paced, well-written true crime book called “Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love.”

I contacted the two reporters and asked them why they took the word of Mr. Martinez, an informant who seems to me to be Philly’s answer to “Goodfellas” Henry Hill, over the word of a Philadelphia police officer.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

You can also read my Q&A with Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Laker via the below link:  

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