Toronto police worried Hamilton cop had blown their cover, corruption trial hears

The head of a massive Toronto police investigation was worried that Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police had tipped off gang members that the cops were onto them, court heard Tuesday as the corruption trial into Ruthowsky's conduct continues.

Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police faces charges including cocaine trafficking, bribery

Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police is facing several charges in Toronto Superior Court. The Crown alleges Ruthowsky was helping the criminals he was supposed to be prosecuting, in exchange for cash. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The head of a massive Toronto police investigation was worried that Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police had tipped off gang members that the cops were onto them, court heard Tuesday as the corruption trial into Ruthowsky's conduct continues.

Det. Travis Clark, who was one of the heads of Toronto police's major projects section, first heard Ruthowsky's voice on a wiretapped conversation with a known drug dealer from Hamilton back in May of 2015.

In that conversation, the Crown alleges, Ruthowsky divulged sensitive police techniques that could have compromised "Project Pharaoh," a widespread police investigation into drugs and weapons trafficking in the city's northwest.

"As a result of the call, we had concerns for officer safety," said Clark, who said if the criminals police had been shadowing knew they were coming, they might set booby traps, or abandon their phones that had been wiretapped.

He said he was trying to build [the dealer's] trust so he would roll over on that second person.- Sgt. James Paterson

"That's probably the worst case scenario in that situation," he said.

Ruthowsky, 44, has pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Toronto to charges of bribery, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine, criminal breach of trust, and conspiring to traffic marijuana.

The Crown contends that Ruthowsky was working with the criminals he was supposed to be investigating, in exchange for a monthly payout of $20,000.

In court's morning session, Sgt. James Paterson, who referred to himself in testimony as once being Ruthowsky's "best friend," returned to the witness box.

Paterson testified that he visited Ruthowsky's home in Ancaster after the detective constable with Hamilton police had been suspended, to talk about the grounds under which he had been removed from duty.

An errand for a drug dealer

The most glaring, Paterson said, was that Ruthowsky went to a private chemical company to get a chemical tested for a drug dealer.

The Crown said in its opening statement that Ruthowsky, at the request of the dealer who was paying him, took a mystery cutting agent for cocaine to a private lab to be chemically analyzed.

Cutting agents are mixed in with cocaine to increase its volume, and therefore, maximize profits. Armed with an identification of exactly what the chemical was, the dealer was able to buy that cutting agent wholesale, which let him turn a much greater profit.

"He explained to me that [the dealer] was providing him information on someone else, who I was aware of, who was a very prominent drug importer in Ontario, in Canada … he said he was trying to build [the dealer's] trust so he would roll over on that second person," Paterson said.

'We had concerns for officer safety.' - Toronto police Det. Travis Clark

"He said he thought that if he could convince [the dealer] he'd do those sorts of things for him, that [the dealer] would trust him more and give him more information."

The dealer's name is protected under a court-ordered publication ban.

Police officers almost never take substances to be analyzed at private labs, court heard. Usually, Paterson said, an officer would send a chemical like that to be tested at Health Canada, which runs an independent, publicly-funded lab.

"That's not within the norm of the policies and procedures of the police service," Paterson said.

The witness also said under cross-examination that Ruthowsky had helped solve two murders while he was suspended from the police service, through his tips from confidential informants. 

A new truck, motorcycle and home improvements

The Crown also ran through the many purchases and upgrades to his home that Ruthowsky had made around the time of his alleged conduct, including down payments on two condos, a motorcycle, a new pickup truck, and a pool at his home.

"I believe the pool was costing between $60,000 and $80,000," Paterson said. "It was a huge pool."

During cross-examination, Ruthowsky's lawyer Greg Lafontaine pointed out that Ruthowsky also did side jobs with a company called Aqua Heat Pools and Spas.

Paterson said that Ruthowsky put in four to six pools a year for fellow police officers, with some coming in at $20,000 to $27,000 a pop, his lawyer said.

"He certainly had other things going on aside from the police service, correct?" Lafontaine asked.

"Correct," Paterson responded.

"Craig Ruthowsky is not somebody who is an extravagant individual?" Lafontaine later asked.

"No," Paterson said.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.