To protect and serve – that’s what they signed up for. But meet the officers who turned to a life of crime, torture and bloody murder while still dressed in uniform
(Images: MMJ STUDIO/Bernstein & Andriulli /Corbis/PA/Getty/Rex/Alamy)
Dirtier Harry: Louis Scarcella
A homicide detective in Brooklyn during the Seventies and Eighties, Scarcella garnered a reputation as the go-to cop when a case needed cracking. Months would go by with a whole fleet of officers failing to solve a crime, then up popped Scarcella and witnesses would emerge or accomplices would be caught and, suddenly, from appearing stone cold, it would be magically resolved.
He retired an icon, but investigators began to connect the dots between the many confessions Scarcella miraculously attained, often sharing all-but identical language – and the long line of convicts who swore they never made them. Scarcella’s fall came when a Brooklyn man who ‘confessed’ to murdering a rabbi in 1990 walked free in 2013 after spending 23 years inside, amid apologies from a judge and $6.4m settlement. So great was the miscarriage of justice, it was the prosecutors who requested he was released. Scarcella pleads his innocence, but with more witness statements not standing, and other convicted killers still protesting they didn’t make the confessions coaxed out of them, the DA cracked, announcing 57 cases would be reviewed.
The real Don Corleone: Louis Eppolito
His badge said NYPD, but Louis Eppolito was a full-time Mafia hitman and mole working for the Lucchese crime family. His father was notorious, but Eppolito denied any gangland links when enrolling in the force in 1969, scoring a job in the Organised Crime Homicide Unit that allowed him to feed his bosses information on their rivals. Along with partner and fellow Mafioso copper Stephen Caracappa, in 1990 Eppolito pulled over Gambino family mobster Eddie Lino, executing him in the driver’s seat of his Mercedes with nine shots fired between them.
Retiring from the force later that year, Eppolito soon befriended actor Joe Pesci, had bit parts in a few films (including GoodFellas and Predator 2) and even wrote a book titled Mafia Cop. Then, in 2005, an FBI investigation saw the hammer fall on Eppolito and Caracappa – both were found guilty of racketeering, obstruction of justice, extortion and eight counts of murder and conspiracy. Eppolito is serving a life sentence plus 100 years. Someone’s taking no chances…
Protection racketeer: Charles Becker
Cementing his place in history as the first US cop to receive the death penalty for murder, Charles Becker was an NYPD lieutenant in the early 1900s who stuffed his pockets full of protection money extorted from brothels and casinos. Savvy as well as shady, Becker once gunned down an innocent bystander while pursuing a criminal, only to plant evidence on the dead civilian and claim they were the crook he was chasing. It all fell apart when a bookie moaned to journalists that the money he was paying to Becker was leaving him skint. He was then found shot dead outside a Manhattan hotel two days later. Not quite so clever this time around, three trials later and Becker was convicted of first-degree murder in 1912, and sent to the chair in 1915.
The real-life Walter White: Nicholas McFadden
A sordid mix of Robin Hood and Trainspotting, corrupt detective McFadden helped himself to a stash of heroin, cannabis and cocaine confiscated from criminals, before flogging it on the street himself.
Working for West Yorkshire Police, McFadden went full Heisenberg – making more than £1m (more, he later admitted, than he knew what to do with). With his brother Simon – the Jesse Pinkman to his Walter White – McFadden told colleagues his flash clothes and designer watch were thanks to an insurance payout from his wife’s cancer battle.
Caught after he deposited £30,000 in his bank over just a few months in 2011, a search of McFadden’s car found £6,000 in cash, with nearly £20,000 hidden in the house and a further £158,000 in the garage. Jailed for 23 years in 2013, last year it was reported McFadden will only repay £250,000.
The Disgraced Hero: David Mack
A bit like the Queen’s honours for Seventies entertainers implicated in Operation Yewtree, the LAPD probably regrets awarding David Mack the Medal For Heroism (for killing a drug dealer who pulled a gun on him).
Growing up in the same neighbourhood as Death Row Records owner Suge Knight, Mack was a gambler, club-goer and serial womaniser. When one of his girlfriends got a job at a bank, she allowed Mack to rob the vault of $722,000 in November 1997. Sentenced to 14 years for his part in the crime, Mack renounced the LAPD in favour of LA’s murderous Bloods while inside.
Then, a few months later, 8lb of cocaine was found to be missing from an evidence locker – a trail of which led directly back to Mack (not literally – he was more careful than that). No one could prove it though, nor that he was responsible for the death of rapper Notorious BIG – despite allegations linking him and partner Rafael Perez to the murder.
The Inside Man: Mesut Karakas
A notorious gangster who just so happened to moonlight as a police constable, Mesut Karakas joined London’s Metropolitan Police in 2006 – somehow passing the force’s vetting process despite his long list of shady associates.Taken down by the Met’s own anti-corruption taskforce (codenamed ‘Ghost Squad’) in 2009, Karakas had his car bugged while he and his associates conspired to kidnap a bank manager in front of his family, then shake him down for cash. Caught on tape discussing the finer points of the plot, Karakas was arrested and is presently serving 13 years in prison.
The showboat: Osman Iqbal
Rule one of corrupt cop club: don’t drive your £178,000 Ferrari to work when you’re supposed to be earning £40,000 a year. West Midlands Police sergeant Osman Iqbal clearly didn’t get that memo, as it was doing this – not his connection to a number of brothels nor peddling Class A drugs around London – that finally clued his previously oblivious colleagues in to his double life.
Sentenced in 2014, he’s currently serving seven years behind bars. Iqbal pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manage a brothel along with other drug and money laundering charges, and he was later accused of gaining unauthorised access to police intelligence systems.
The biggest ploy that underpinned Iqbal’s criminal enterprise together was a fake company that would collect high-society clients from strip bars, ply them with drugs and women before dropping them off at their brothel, then charge them for the privilege. And, of course, the resulting bank account charge would be far higher than originally agreed. But, of course, no one was foolish enough to complain to NatWest that they’d been overcharged for sex and narcotics. It was a smart play. Especially from a man dumb enough to turn up for work in a supercar.
Boy scout gone bad: Manuel Pardo
And it all started so well. A former Boy Scout and US Navy veteran, Manuel Pardo graduated top of his class at the Florida Highway Patrol Police Academy, but left early after faking traffic tickets. Still intent on being a lawman, Pardo transferred to neighbouring Sweetwater, escaping the sack on brutality charges in 1981, before losing his job after flying to the Bahamas to give false testimony for a drug-smuggling colleague. With his law enforcement career over, things then really turned ugly. Obsessed with Adolf Hitler (he’d given his pet doberman a swastika tattoo), Pardo killed six men and three women over a 92-day period in 1986. He detailed the kills in a photo diary, with this – along with the use of his victims’ credit cards and the fact he accidentally shot himself in the foot during the final murder – leaving a clear trail for police. Pardo was killed by lethal injection in 2012.
The Chicago Torturer: Jon Burge
The architect of two decades of despicable police torture, Jon Burge joined Chicago Police in 1970 after military tours in Vietnam and Korea. Using techniques that would make wardens at Guantanamo Bay shudder, it’s alleged Burge burned suspects with cigarettes and radiators, electrocuted their testicles, handcuffed them to objects for days on end and even shot dead their pets – generating false confessions that may rank in the hundreds.
Heading up a bent band of coppers known as the ‘Midnight Crew’, Burge finally wound up in court in 2010, charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. Yet, as the statute of limitations had expired, Burge only received four-and-a-half years, was freed last year and keeps his yearly $54,000 pension. Meanwhile, more than 100 people convicted during his reign still sit behind bars.
The American Escobar: Joseph Miedzianowski
Often trumpeted as the most corrupt cop in history, Miedzianowski worked the Chicago Gangs Unit by day, while simultaneously running his own much-feared drug gang. What started out with Miedzianowski’s skill as a conduit between the streets and the thin blue line of the law – brokering peace between gangs and getting information from those in the know – soon evolved into a desire to rip off cartels and constructing an empire of his own. Running drugs and guns between Chicago and Miami throughout the Eighties and Nineties, the streets were a far riskier place under Miedzianowski’s watch, as he’d keep his gangbanger cohorts out of jail by supplying the names of undercover agents. Rumbled by the FBI and the ATF, the cop-turned-drug lord was given a life sentence without parole in 2001.