A former Philadelphia narcotics officer who has pleaded guilty to robbing a drug dealer testified against his former colleagues in federal court on Tuesday, laying out how the group targeted dealers they thought would lead them to cash they could steal.
“White males, college boys, wearing khaki pants, easy to intimidate,” Walker said of his group’s preferred targets. “We’d catch them doing whatever they were doing, we’d scream at them, sometimes get physical. I’d slap them around. These guys crack under the pressure.”
Walker, now 46, was caught in 2013 in an FBI sting in which he planted drugs on a suspected drug dealer to put him in jail. That dealer turned out to be an informant for the FBI, and when Walker burglarized his house to steal money and marijuana, the feds arrested him.
On Wednesday, he used the clipped, matter-of-fact tone that is typical of law enforcement testimony. But he wasn’t there as a police officer anymore.
“I decided I wanted to save myself,” said Walker, who faces a life sentence.
The nearly 24-year veteran of the Philadelphia police department told the court that he first stole money as a young uniformed office working in the city’s 16th district.
“I chased a dealer into the house, there was a large bag of money on the top of the fridge. I had never seen that much money in my life,” Walker said. “I took some money out of the bag and put it in my jacket pocket.”
The amount of money he was able to steal grew as he climbed the ranks of the department until he made it into the elite Narcotics Field Unit, tasked with targeting mid-level dealers and drug suppliers.
The group worked up the food chain, targeting low level dealers who they hoped would flip on suppliers. They did not rob every suspect them came across, Walker said, but they used the same methods to find ones they could steal from.
Walker told the court the Officer Thomas Liciardello, one of the defendants, was the de facto leader of the drug squad, a position he gained because of his talent for finding dealers to rip off.
“He was a money maker. He produced good jobs,” Walker said. “If a guy is producing jobs and you know he was stealing money, you do what he tells you.”
But Walker said he also had a falling out with the group as he went through a “messy” divorce in 2009. That led him to start drinking heavily, and the alcohol caused him to gain weight. He had gastric bypass surgery to help him shed pounds.
Walker’s testimony will continue this afternoon and is expected to last multiple days.