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The Crack in the Shield

A lawyer from the Special Prosecutor’s Office played a videotape showing Winter and Magno taking protection money from a drug dealer outside a St. Johns Place building. The lawyer then said that they had two alternatives. They could go to jail or they could cooperate.

“You just show them what you have,” says Special Prosecutor Charles J. Hynes. “It’s very dispassionate. You just say, ‘Here’s your choice.’ ”

As he made his decision, Winter no doubt considered Dennis Caufield, his brother-in-law and a former cop. Caufield had worn a wire seven years before, in an investigation that had led to the arrest of four anti-crime officers. He was subsequently rewarded with a promotion to detective and a transfer to the 17th Precinct. Winter and Magno now settled for being what Hynes calls “unarrested.”

“To catch a thief, you got to turn a thief,” Hynes says.

In May, Winter and Magno arrived at the stationhouse wearing micro-recorders. They joined in raids on narcotics spots and recorded cops talking about other scores. They put out the word that they were willing to “fence” stolen property, and cops brought them drugs and guns.

At the end of each tour, Winter and Magno met secretly with IAD and handed over their 90-minute micro-cassettes. One cop was recorded boasting of pilfering $8,000 in cash and $3,900 in food stamps from a burglarized supermarket on Franklin Avenue. Another chatted about stealing cars while on duty. Another gossiped about a cop who had killed a man and woman for $1,500.

On June 17, Gallagher put a “Buddy Bob, meet at 234” call on the radio. Winter met Gallagher and Brian at the park across from the firehouse, and they all went off to hit a spot at 143 Albany Avenue. They first searched a second-floor apartment, without success.

When Brian shone his flashlight down an air shaft, he spotted a paper bag. Winter lowered himself down and discovered that the bag contained crack vials. Brian then found a .357 Magnum and a potato-chip sack filled with more of the drug.

Back in the park, Brian helped count the total score and discovered they had more than a half-ounce. Brian “fenced” the .357 Magnum through Winter for $200. The drugs were sold to the West Indian drug peddler, Roy. Winter turned over his $1,000 share to IAD.

On June 18, Brian and Gallagher spotted a couple buying drugs in the doorway of an apartment at 261 Buffalo Avenue. Winter helped hit the spot, and he discovered a trapdoor in a third-floor apartment. He pulled out a bag containing marijuana and $107 in cash.

Brian pocketed the money, and Winter offered to sell the marijuana. Winter then took the pot to IAD, and an investigator gave him $400. Three days later, Winter passed the bills to Gallagher.

That same day, Brian told Winter that he had spotted a new narcotics spot, on Classon Avenue. He telephoned Winter the next day and said that he and Gallagher had raided the place and come away with $70 and 58 vials of crack. He asked Winter to handle the sale.

On July 1, Brian and Gallagher got into a car with Winter. Brian placed a package containing crack in the glove compartment. Gallagher spoke about an upcoming sergeant’s test and other PBA business and then handed Winter a slip of paper with the notations “52/10” and “19/5.” The figures apparently corresponded to the number of $10 and $5 vials.

“Fifty-two and nineteen,” Brian was recorded as saying.

On July 4, Winter met with Gallagher and said he had sold the drugs. Winter then gave $400 to Gallagher, who returned $100 as an apparent commission. Winter spoke to Brian later that day and told him of his transaction.

“You work, you stick your neck out, you get paid,” Brian was recorded as saying.

Six days later, Winter joined Brian and Gallagher in raiding a building at 1226 Lincoln Place. Gallagher entered one apartment by yanking the fire-escape window from the sash. The cops had been tipped that a “nut” was hidden there, and they ripped out radiators and tore up floorboards.

On July 11, Winter and police officer Robert Rathbun went on patrol in an unmarked car. Rathbun spoke to Winter of his family and said that he was taking his children on a camping trip. Rathbun was then recorded as saying that he was hoping to pick up “sneaker money” before he left.

A few minutes later, Rathbun and Winter hit a spot at 1260 Pacific Street. They had just found a stash of marijuana when a knock came at the door. They peered through a slot in the door and saw that a line of customers was forming.


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Dec 8, 1986 issue of New York