4 Peel officers charged with theft, perjury after Scarface statue stolen from suspected drug dealer
Drug charges against Brampton, Ont., man were stayed as a result of court findings
Four Peel Region police officers were charged with theft and perjury Thursday, after an Ontario Superior Court judge concluded last year that the men stole a statue of Scarface character Tony Montana while executing a search warrant in 2014, and then lied while under oath.
Following the decision, the officers were suspended with pay and an internal investigation was launched by the Peel Regional Police service last May. As a result of the court's findings, several drug-related charges were stayed against the defendant Lowell Somerville.
"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," said Peel police Chief Jennifer Evans in a statement on Thursday.
The charges against all four men were laid after "a lengthy and in-depth investigation and after consulting with the Ministry of the Attorney General's Office," the statement reads.
The officers face one count each of theft under $5,000, one count each of obstructing police and two counts each of perjury, the statement said.
'One-of-a-kind' Tony Montana statue missing
At the time of the trial, Justice Jennifer Woollcombe determined that Const. Richard Rerrie, one of the four officers who had carried out a search on a storage locker being rented by Somerville, had stolen a large statue depicting drug kingpin Tony Montana, the lead character in the film Scarface.
Rerrie, alongside Const. Damian Savino, Const. Mihai Muresan and Sgt. Emanuel Pinheiro, then proceeded to lie about what had happened "with the intention of deceiving the court about what they'd done," Woollcombe wrote in a statement last May, describing their behaviour as "not only profoundly disappointing, but shocking."
Somerville, whose charges included trafficking and possession of heroin, told the court that he had visited his rented storage locker shortly after police had searched it and found that a number of things — including his "one-of-a-kind," 3½-foot tall wooden Tony Montana statue — were missing.
His complaint kicked off a voir dire — a trial within a trial — in which the four officers were questioned about whether they had removed anything from the locker.
All four were adamant that nothing had been removed.
Officers had 'convenient memory losses,' judge wrote
After being shown surveillance video in which Rerrie could be seen leaving the unit with a large object in his arms, the officer said that it was a heater he had come upon in the storage locker facility that had a "free" sign on it. The other three officers insisted they had no memory of Rerrie taking the heater.
Woollcombe called Rerrie's story about finding the heater "palpably false" and dismissed the testimony of the other three, pointing out that all four left together and would have seen the bulky object he was carrying.
"I cannot accept their convenient memory losses," she wrote.
"Perhaps they never suspected a drug dealer would complain, or be believed if he did.… Perhaps they believed the video cameras in the facility, which were being changed, were not working," said Woollcombe.
She wrote that although the charges against Somerville were serious, and that to stay them would prevent a trial in which "it was highly likely that Mr. Somerville would otherwise have been found guilty," she had no alternative.
The officers are scheduled to appear in court on June 4 in Brampton.
With files from Kate McGillivray