MICHAEL HEARNE served as a member of the Camden Police Department for 18 years until his arrest in November of 2006 on charges of conspiring to rob drug dealers and launder the proceeds.
Although Hearne had established a strong reputation in the city for his participation in community outreach projects, he had been known to associate with one of Camden's most notorious drug dealers, Jose Rivera, and was caught on tape counseling Rivera on how to deal with investigators in 1997. How long that association had been in place before the taping, and what activities Michael Hearne was involved in between his being caught on tape with Rivera in 1997 and his arrest in 2006 can only be speculated on.
Camden Courier-Post - January 22, 2000
Tape captures Camden officer advising alleged drug dealer
FRANK KUMMER and CLINT RILEY
An FBI tape played Friday in U.S. District Court captured a Camden police officer advising alleged druglord Jose "JR" Rivera how to handle narcotics investigators who seized a boat registered in his name.
"Don't do nothing, don't do nothing," Officer Michael Hearne tells Rivera on June 4, 1997, in a conversation inside an East Camden gym owned by Rivera. "... let them (expletives) come to you. Let them come to you."
Hearne tells Rivera that police would probably notify him by letter that they wanted to speak with him.
"So I'd wait for those (expletives) to send you a letter, you know," Hearne says.
Unknown to Hearne, a 13-year department veteran, he was being tape-recorded by Rivera associate Juan Marquez as the three men talked about the recent arrest of convicted drug dealer Kenneth Waller.
The discussion centered on a boat that investigators seized at Waller's grandmother's house in Camden.
The approximately $40,000 boat was registered to Rivera, but Marquez and others have testified it was paid for by convicted drug dealer Saul Febo.
Marquez, an admitted drug dealer, was working as an FBI informant at the time. He testified Friday that Hearne was in uniform as they talked.
Marquez's testimony came during his third day on the witness stand at the drug conspiracy trial of Rivera and alleged top associate Luis "Tun Tun" Figueroa.
Hearne, 35, is the seventh law enforcement officer to be linked by name during the trial to Rivera or the drug organization he allegedly headed. So far, Hearne is the only officer captured on tape. More officers are expected to be identified as the trial continues.
"The tapes are what they are," Hearne said Friday night, while working at the North Camden police substation. "Anybody that knows me knows what type of police officer I am. Anybody that knows my character knows what type of person I am. The nature of the things on the tapes can be and are being misconstrued by whoever is reading them."
Hearne said his profanities when mentioning other police were just "gym talk." He said he regularly lifted weights at Rivera's gym and that he only knew him as a businessman.
"I can tell you unequivocally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have never sold any drugs, transported any drugs or taken any bribes for my cooperation or support," Hearne said. "I am a born-again Christian. I would never do anything to tarnish my reputation, my family's reputation, or the reputation of the Camden Police Department."
Camden Police Chief Robert Allenbach, who was not in court Friday, said later he will review the federal government's evidence related to city police officers and take appropriate action.
"I will not tolerate corruption," the chief said.
Hearne is on a list of 11 officers awaiting promotion to sergeant. Camden County Prosecutor Lee Solomon asked Allenbach to delay any promotions from the list, saying that reasons for the delay would become clear as the trial proceeds..
Philadelphia Inquirer - November 27, 2006
ARREST OF 'SAINT' SHOCKS CAMDEN
By Sam Wood and Dwight Ott
Good cop and bad cop? Thought to be a shining example, a born-again Camden officer is accused of allegedly helping the bad guys.
On the day Cpl. Michael Hearne was appointed to lead the faith-based efforts of the Camden Police Department, he drove to a seedy supermarket to meet an old friend.
The friend had a proposition: Lend me a gun to rob drug dealers, and I'll give you half the cash.
Hearne agreed, according to state police.
That was Monday, November 6.
The 42-year-old had just gotten a raise with his new job, organizing church leaders to help fight crime in Camden. But he was still broke. There was a six-figure tax lien against his Woodbury suburban rancher. And he was moonlighting as a security guard.
Investigators caught his entire conversation on tape. Later that week, Hearne was arrested as he thought he was about to meet with the friend to divvy up the loot.
City leaders were thunderstruck at the news of the arrest. No one believed that the born-again Christian and 18-year police veteran might be living a double life.
"He was a saint and did the work of 50 persons," said Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison. "I don't see how anyone could do so many good things and be accused of this."
Hearne was charged with official misconduct, conspiracy to commit robbery, money laundering, and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes. Police are investigating three robberies in connection with the case.
But this wasn't the first time Hearne had been linked to questionable circumstances. An FBI investigation in 1997 caught Hearne on tape advising drug kingpin Jose "J.R." Rivera on how to handle narcotics investigators.
"Hearne was clearly a confidant of J.R.'s," Kevin Smith, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Rivera, said last week. "The only reason J.R. was able to thrive so long was because he had insiders working with him. Hearne was a perfect example."
There wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Hearne, but he was quietly suspended from the police force in 2000 for six months without pay. Police executive Arturo Venegas said last week that he had been aware of Hearne's conversation with Rivera before naming Hearne chaplain, but did not believe it had crossed the threshold into criminal conduct.
Rivera, accused of running the biggest drug gang in Camden's history, was later found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Tainted by the link to Rivera, Hearne was never promoted to sergeant. His title of corporal is only an honorary one, said senior officers in the department.
Hearne could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, would not comment on details of the case Friday, but said Hearne was awaiting an arraignment date and had been released from the Mercer County jail on $175,000 bail.
Hearne's history with the department wasn't always blemished. He was president of the Brotherhood for Unity and Progress, a minority officers' watchdog organization, and a director on the board of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, Venegas said. He led the annual Mischief Night marches against crime through Camden.
At 6 feet and 300 pounds, he looked like a superhero. Children were awed by his size. Fellow patrolmen sought him out as a partner, senior officers said.
Hearne, who once considered a career as a professional football player, could press 480 pounds. In September 1991, he beat all competitors at the state's Police Bench Press Championships. He was declared the "Strongest Policeman in the State."
It was at an East Camden gym that Hearne first met Rivera.
When he testified at Rivera's trial in 2000, Hearne said he knew Rivera only as a businessman. He told reporters that as a born-again Christian, he would never do anything to tarnish the reputation of police department.
It's unclear what spurred the recent investigation into his alleged criminal activities. State officials began to target Hearne in mid-October, according to court papers. Investigators would say only that a confidential informant had tipped them off. In early November, when Hearne's friend asked for a weapon to hold up the drug dealers, Hearne offered a shotgun. He didn't realize the friend was wearing a wire.
After a bit of wrangling, Hearne gave him one of his personal revolvers, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson registered in his own name, according to court papers.
Detectives said that on Friday, Nov. 10, Hearne drove to the Super 8 Motel in Bellmawr believing he was going to split the proceeds of at least three robberies. Hearne was expecting well over $30,000, said Sgt. Stephen Jones, spokesman for the state police.
It was 5 p.m. Hearne was still in uniform as he circled the motel slowly in his black van. He pulled into a parking spot in the back of the motel and waited. State troopers were well hidden. They let Hearne stew for 10 minutes. Then they pounced.
Suddenly, Hearne's van was surrounded. Weapons drawn, eight SWAT team officers shouted at Hearne to keep his hands in the air and get out of the van.
Hearne, shocked, gave up without offering any resistance. He was ordered held on $2 million bail. The following Monday, a week after he had been named administrative chaplain, his bail was reduced and he was released.
Later in the day, Hearne was stripped of his new job and suspended without pay. .
Camden Courier-Post - September 28, 2007
Ex-cop gets 7-year sentence
A 18-year Camden police officer known for his community outreach received seven years in state prison Thursday for conspiring with a second man to rob drug dealers.
Michael Hearne, 43, of Woodbury, pleaded guilty to a second-degree official misconduct charge before Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Holden. As part of the agreement, he will be barred for life from holding public office.
Hearne admitted giving another man a loaded .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to rob a drug dealer. The other man was to give the money from the robberies to Hearne, who would launder it. The men would then split the proceeds, he admitted.
"(Hearne) took an oath to uphold the law and to protect the people of this state as a police officer," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement. ". . . Nothing could be further from his sworn duty to maintain public safety."
Several charges -- including attempted robbery, money laundering and two counts of conspiracy -- were dropped. The second-degree official misconduct charge was the highest substantive charge Hearne faced.
Hearne's wife, Annie Hearne, 37, also faces third-degree charges of conspiracy to launder money and money laundering. There is an Oct. 18 deadline for her to reach a plea agreement.
Hearne's attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, said his client agreed to the scheme because of "financial pressures." He knew the second man, who has not been identified, from when the man was arrested as a juvenile.
The two met on November 10 as part of a New Jersey State Police sting operation. Hearne, who was in uniform, believed the man would be giving him about $75,000. He was suspended from the police department following his arrest.
Hearne will apply for the state's Intensive Supervision Program -- an out-of-prison program that requires community service, a curfew and a job. Zucker said he believes Hearne is working for a construction company and "should be a suitable candidate." He's eligible to join the program after 60 days.
"There's a lot of good deeds behind him," Zucker said.
Prior to his arrest in November, Hearne was appointed the Camden Police Department's chaplain. He was to rally the city's religious organizations for community policing efforts. He had also organized a Mischief Night walk in late October to discourage crime.
That work helped Hearne hold onto a strong reputation despite his allegedly advising convicted drug lord Jose Rivera on how to handle investigators.
In a 1997 wiretap, officials captured a conversation between Hearne and Rivera inside an East Camden gym. Investigators had just seized Rivera's boat. Hearne is heard on the tape telling Rivera "Don't do nothing . . . let them come to you."
No charges related to Rivera were ever filed against Hearne.
Camden Courier-Post - February 16, 2008
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