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York County police officer indicted on drug theft charges

Written by Gordon Rago/York Daily Record | Jan 28, 2016 4:02 AM
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Officer's attorney says case should not be in federal court

(Undated) -- A federal grand jury in Harrisburg indicted a 17-year veteran of the Fairview Township Police Department on charges related to the theft of drug proceeds and efforts to conceal those thefts.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Officer Tyson Baker, 41, of Etters, was arrested by federal authorities last month on corruption charges. His indictment was handed down on Wednesday.

The charges are related to a violation of the Hobbs Act, a federal statute that prohibits interfering with interstate commerce by force, violence or intimidation, the Department of Justice said in December.

But Baker's attorney, Jay Abom, said Wednesday that the violation of the act is missing from the indictment and therefore the case "has no business in federal court."

The indictment lays out eight counts including the theft of thousands of dollars and making false reports related to those thefts including making a warrantless search.

"When he was arrested on Dec. 18, they accused him of serious robbery...that's missing. That's what gave them federal jurisdiction," Abom said.

Furthermore, Abom maintains his client did not commit any of the crimes he is accused of committing and said Baker will plead not guilty.

"The facts alleged in the complaint and the facts alleged in the indictment are nearly identical," Abom said. "They never, ever alleged any facts that would support robbery or extortion despite the fact they included robbery and extortion on the original complaint."

Baker allegedly stole several thousand dollars of real and suspected drug proceeds in November and December of 2015, U.S. Attorney Peter Smith stated in a news release.

He then allegedly caused the preparation of false reports in connection with those two thefts to cover up his conduct and obstruct the investigation. He was indicted in two counts of the indictment with taking property to prevent its seizure, two counts of obstruction of justice, three counts pertaining to the filing false reports, and one count of theft of government property.

News of his arrest broke in December, and he was placed on administrative leave.

According to court documents, Baker was released from custody on house arrest on several conditions including not having contact with the Fairview Township Police Department, not drinking alcohol and having the FBI hold all of his firearms or other dangerous weapons while the charges are pending.

Baker also waived his preliminary hearing last month, documents show.

According to authorities, Baker orchestrated the theft of $2,000 in drug proceeds seized by the police department in November during the search of a home that had resulted in the seizure of several pounds of marijuana and approximately $15,000, the indictment alleges.

The FBI recorded conversations between the officer and a cooperating individual regarding the theft, the release states. He also is accused of discussing stopping suspected drug traffickers driving through the township in order to steal their drug proceeds.

The indictment alleges that on Dec. 16, the FBI, with the cooperation of the Fairview Township Police Department, arranged for a vehicle operated by an undercover agent to be stopped.

Baker is accused of having the vehicle towed from the scene. And, without first obtaining a search warrant and in spite of directions by the FBI not to search the vehicle, Baker allegedly searched the vehicle and stole $3,000 concealed in the vehicle that Baker believed were drug proceeds. The grand jury determined that false reports were prepared and filed in connection with both theft incidents.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Harrisburg Resident Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, and the Fairview Township Police Department.

*This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record

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