Six New Jersey Cops Charged With Protecting Dealers to Get Drugs

Six law enforcement officers were indicted Tuesday on charges alleging they tipped off a suspected drug ring about police raids in exchange for drugs.

What began as a "social relationship" between the northern New Jersey officers and their young contemporaries soon spiraled out of control, authorities said.

"The targets lived a high-profile lifestyle: They drove luxury vehicles and they had boats, and they partied with the officers," said Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jay McCann. "Then it cascaded from there."

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The main drugs involved were the powerful painkiller OxyContin and the sleeping pill Ambien.

The officers were arrested within the past 18 months, but the case was made public on Tuesday with the indictments.

Each officer was suspended and faces arraignment in four to six weeks on charges including conspiracy to commit official misconduct; conspiracy to possess narcotics; official misconduct; witness tampering and hindering apprehension.

The indictment also names seven others who were targeted in the drug probe, which included dealing in cocaine, OxyContin and anabolic steroids.

McCann said the case came to light in August 2004 when it became apparent that the targets of an ongoing drug investigation by a county's task force had been tipped off about search and arrest warrants that were about to be executed.

"There were communications intercepted on the wiretaps among the targets of the narcotics investigation that made it clear that it had been compromised," he said. "There was an intercept in which one person was making arrangements to get narcotics out of his house."

The officers charged were Pompton Lakes officers Dennis DePrima, 30, Robert J. Palianto, 29, and Michael Megna, 34; Ringwood Officer Paul Kleiber, 26; West Paterson Officer Richard Beagin, 26; and Passaic County Sheriff's Officer Gerry Ward, 46, whose current address is in Gastonia, N.C.

It could not immediately be determined if the officers had hired lawyers.

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