Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Fax leak shattered drug probe, police say


Norwood officer accused in interception

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        When Norwood police drug investigators in late February discovered confidential police information being discussed outside the department, they knew something was wrong.

        As a result, an undercover drug investigation involving three police agencies was halted and several months of work was lost, Norwood Police Capt. Mike Wheeler said Tuesday.

        “If the bad guy knows you're looking at him, he has to cease and desist,” Capt. Wheeler said.

        Officials Tuesday would not say exactly how long the investigation had been going on, or how the leak was discovered.

        But Norwood Police Lt. Steve Daniels, a 22-year Norwood police veteran, has been indicted on a felony charge that accuses him of intercepting and releasing confidential information on the drug investigation.

        If convicted on the felony obstructing official business charge, Lt. Daniels could face up to one year in prison.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen said the officer intercepted a fax containing information intended for the Norwood drug task force, made a copy of it and took it home. The fax was inadvertently sent to the patrol unit fax number, which is one digit different from the drug task force fax.

        The task force maintains a separate office and its operations typically are not common knowledge within the department, Capt. Wheeler said.

        Investigators say the indictment alleges that Lt. Daniels shared the copy of the fax with his son, which jeopardized a drug investigation involving Fairfield Police, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and several suspects and informants.

        Capt. Wheeler would not comment on how the officer's son was involved in the case or provide any information about the son. Fairfield police officials would not comment.

        Lt. Daniels on Tuesday turned himself in to Hamilton County sheriff's deputies and was released on his promise to return to court for future hearings, said Peter Rosenwald, Lt. Daniels' attorney.

        Mr. Rosenwald declined any other comment on the case.

        Lt. Daniels was promoted to that rank from sergeant in January; he makes $60,100 a year. On Monday, he was suspended with pay and his police powers were taken away.

        But Capt. Wheeler said city officials could still decide to take the officer's pay away or consider other disciplinary action.

        Lt. Daniels joined the Norwood force as a patrolman in November 1978 and was promoted to sergeant in July 1988. His personnel file contains several commendations. It also shows that in 1999, his neighbor in Norwood filed a complaint against him in a dispute over parking.

        Norwood Council member Helen Geraci has known Lt. Daniels since he was a high-school swimmer and said she is puzzled by the indictment.

        “I'm sorry that anything happened like this,” Mrs. Geraci said. “He's a dedicated policeman. Whenever I've asked Steve to do anything or for any insight, he's always been willing to work with you.”

       



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