New York (CNN) — A veteran New York policeman, jailed since October after being accused of involvement with drug dealers, is now charged with plotting to kill a witness who was to testify against him.
Officer Jose Ramos, from the NYPD’s 40th Precinct in the Bronx, was charged Thursday along with his wife, Wanda Abreu, who is accused of using Ramos’ pension money to pay off a hit man. The district attorney’s office did not identify the hit man or the witness.
“Ramos once said, without him (the witness), there is no case. And so they began conspiring to have that witness killed,” Omer Wiczyk, assistant Bronx district attorney, testified in court. “He said explicitly: Go ahead, do it; but do it right away.”
Both Ramos and Abreu pleaded not guilty.
“We’re very shocked and my client denies all these charges, and we’re going to fight them,” Dawn Florio, Ramos’ defense attorney, said Thursday.
The Bronx district attorney’s office said in a news release that the couple attempted to arrange the killing “through face-to-face meetings and telephone calls, some of which were recorded at a detention facility on Rikers Island, where Ramos is awaiting trial.”
Court papers say the conversations took place between September and May.
Ramos and Abreu were charged with three counts of conspiracy in the second degree, and one of criminal solicitation in the second degree. If convicted of conspiracy, the most serious of the charges, they could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, officials said.
Ramos already faced numerous charges of attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, transportation of what he believed to be drugs to drug dealers and revealing the identity of a confidential source. Those actions are alleged to have occurred from March to November 2009.
He was investigated after an anonymous tip to police.
Prosecutors say they also stumbled upon an alleged ticket-fixing scandal over the course of the investigation of Ramos, and officials have since accused 16 other police officers of getting rid of tickets for friends or family.
The ticket-fixing charges are unrelated to Ramos.
Bail for Ramos from the charges filed against him in October remains at $500,000 cash.
Officer Jose Ramos, assigned to the 40th Precinct, made his real money inside two Bronx barber shops – without ever touching a pair of scissors.
Ramos, using his businesses as a front and his badge for protection, turned his small corner of the borough into a haven for drug-dealing, robbery and stolen goods, law enforcement sources said.
“He was the king, to some degree,” one source involved in the ticket-fixing probe said of Ramos’ Soundview operation. “He had a hand in everything.”
The two Who’s First barber shops were a gift from Ramos’ father, a former NYPD officer now retired in Texas.
One shop sat just two blocks from the precinct stationhouse where Ramos, a 17-year police veteran, worked the midnight shift.
The 26 counts against Ramos – ordered held on a staggering $500,000 cash bail – barely hint at the breadth of his criminal empire, sources said.
From behind the storefronts, the Operation Desert Storm veteran dealt in marijuana, bootlegged movie DVDs and music CDs.
Accused drug dealer Lee King, indicted Friday along with Ramos, helped convert the tonsorial parlors into lucrative drug dens.
The cop eventually developed a fairly sophisticated network of cohorts, drug-dealing pals and snitches in the Bronx neighborhood, the sources said.
“He got away with it for years,” said the source. “He carved himself a nice little niche.”
To protect King and their business, Ramos reportedly rented him an apartment, bought him a car and gave him an NYPD placard.
“They had some territory and the protection [Ramos’\] job afforded him,” one source said. “There was plenty of money coming in.”
When King was robbed of drugs while driving Ramos’ car, he turned to the officer for advice about what to tell police.
“You tell them you were going to Queens to drop off my son,” Ramos said in a wiretapped conversation. “Just play it cool.”
Ramos’ criminal involvement soon became more hands-on. He drove his squad car from the Bronx to Brooklyn, believing the trunk was filled with kilos of heroin, cops said.
“I could drive a dead body in the trunk of my car where I want and no one would stop me,” he bragged to an undercover cop.
Prosecutors said they captured many of Ramos’ crooked escapades on video during their lengthy probe, including his rip-offs of a drug trafficker and an electronics dealer.
Both the “victims” were actually undercover cops.
Ramos apparently invested much of his take on illegal gambling, using a bookie to make John Gotti-sized sports bets.
Unlike the hard-luck “Dapper Don,” Ramos was a winner: At one point, his account was $54,000 in the black.
His lawyer insisted prosecutors overreached with their case against Ramos, who has no previous criminal record.
“The majority of the things he’s charged with are misdemeanors,” lawyer John Sandleitner said yesterday. “Talk is cheap. Just because they say it doesn’t make it so.”