Queens detective Thomas Rice found a way to hack the “hard and dangerous” work of protecting and serving. He never got off his butt.
The thief used Hitlall’s credit card at a Lefferts Blvd. deli right away – a detail he provided to police. But as time passed, the investigation never seemed to go anywhere, he said.*
“I called them several times asking if they found anything,” the 41-year-old dad said. “The cops never got back to me.”
Unknown to him, there was a sinister reason. The case detective, Thomas Rice, had closed the “investigation,” and his lieutenant approved it just four days later.
There are two reasons to close an investigation. The first is that they’ve arrested the perp. The second is that they’ve decided they’ll never find the perp. Rice closed it for the second reason. But then, his report told the story of the great effort he put into solving the case.
Rice claimed in his closing report on May 19, 2012 to have interviewed four witnesses – “Raul Singh,” “Raminder Supaul,” “Raminder Mohammend” and “Sonjna Rampersad.”
Interviewing four witnesses for a car break in? Seems like a legit effort, right?
None of those “witnesses” existed, and the addresses at which he claimed to have interviewed them were fake, a subsequent NYPD investigation found.
Rice claimed he visited one address on 149th Ave. that actually existed, but the resident he claimed to have interviewed – “Sellall Roupaul” – didn’t exist.
Maria Firmino, the actual resident, told the Daily News she was never interviewed by police.
Firmino confirmed that no one with the name “Sellall Roupaul” has ever lived at her home.
“Never,” she said. “I’m the owner of the house for many years. I’ve been here since 1987. I’ve never had anyone with that name live here.”
This was just one case. There were more.
Hitlall wasn’t alone. Rice, 44, made up fake names and addresses to improperly close at least 21 other grand larceny and auto theft cases over a 12-month period in 2011 and 2012, while assigned to the 106th Precinct detective squad, an NYPD investigation found.
Rice served under four supervisors. Each happily signed off on his closing cases without ever getting out of his chair. One might suppose that somebody would notice that Rice spent a lot of time around the precinct for a guy who was out on the street interviewing witnesses.
But when they don’t exist, the interviews never happened, and he just made it all up, you can get a lot of work done without exerting a great deal of effort. Maybe he took long lunches so nobody would notice. A smart cop will do that, you know.
Grand larceny and auto theft are two of the so-called index crimes used by the NYPD to gauge serious crime in the city.
Rice closed all the cases as “investigative leads exhausted” within just a few days of the initial crimes. That fact alone should have been a red flag to his bosses, said a retired detective sergeant with no ties to the case.
“You are supposed to make several attempts to reach witnesses, and you can’t do that in two or three days. It’s physically impossible,” he said. “Leads are never totally exhausted. You can always canvas. You can always show photos of suspects in other crimes.”
As anyone who’s had their car broken into, stolen, in New York City knows, the chances of anyone being arrested aren’t good. There are three reasons, the first being that it’s not easy to find the person who did it. But it’s also not a high priority crime, as it already happened and no one’s life is threatened. The third is a bit of any ugly reason, that cops aren’t very good at actually finding perps. Real detective work may look easy on the tube, but it takes thought and effort in real life. Most cops aren’t up to the task. They do much better tripping over perps, or creating perps, than actually finding them.
But figuring out that Rice was lying shouldn’t have taken too much effort at all.
Rice often used the same fake names and made-up addresses across multiple reports and cut-and-pasted the exact same statements, including typos, into reports.
He often closed the cases within only two or three days – while ignoring the victims who unknowingly waited and hoped for weeks or months that their property would be found or that someone would be arrested.
How many times can “Bhukan Rajpattie” be the witness? How many different addresses can he have? You would think the lieutenant would begin to wonder, perhaps smell something unsavory, as Rice used the same made-up names over and over. And what of the residents, crime victims, who kept calling about their cases, their losses, their property?
And the NYPD, not to mention Rice’s union, the Detectives Endowment Fun, naturally was outraged by this cop who brought disgrace to the job?
But even after he was caught, Rice got to keep his job and his rank. Since 2013, he has been a detective in the 67th Precinct, still handling law enforcement duties.
The 19-year veteran made $113,000 in 2017, including $2,829.27 in overtime, records show. On the side, he runs his own pressure washing company on Long Island with NYPD approval.
Michael Palladino, the head of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, added, “It’s six years old and the Queens District Attorney was not involved because it was an administrative matter, not a criminal one. (Detective) Rice took his punishment and moved on; so should everyone else.”
Rice was the subject of a disciplinary proceeding, though it’s unknown whether any of his supervisors were, and “settled” the case. Should he ever testify, his fabricating reports should prove an interesting subject of questioning. Then again, if he never actually did any cop work, then there’s little chance he’ll ever have to testify. It appears that the only split-second decision Rice ever had to make was whether to order fries with the burger and face the danger of cholesterol and a paper cut.
*The Daily News prefers one-sentence paragraphs, so as not to overtax the attention span of readers.