A Queens NYPD police officer arrested and arraigned in federal court Tuesday is accused of blackmailing or coercing at least three women into having sex with him from 2006 to 2008, including an Elmhurst woman who is suing the city over the alleged incident.
Oscar Sandino, 37, a 13-year veteran who worked in the Queens Narcotics Bureau South, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to three counts of misdemeanor civil rights violations and was released on a $250,000 bond. If convicted, he faces a maximum of three years in prison.
The federal investigation was initiated after the woman from Elmhurst reported Sandino to the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau in March 2008 following an allegedly coerced sexual assault about one month before that.
The woman told police Sandino raided her Elmhurst apartment along with other officers during a drug investigation involving her then-boyfriend, who was not present. She said Sandino later propositioned for sex, molesting and sodomizing her in a police station bathroom stall and threatening to have her children seized by the city Administration for Children’s Services if she did not agree to have sex with him, according to a civil lawsuit complaint she filed last year.
Because there are no federal laws specifically dealing with rape or sexual assault, federal prosecutors were limited as to what they could charge Sandino with, according to Robert Nardoza, public information officer for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
“There’s no federal rape statute and I can’t speak to any state or local charges that may or may not be applicable,” he said.
Kevin Ryan, spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, said police began investigating one of the alleged incidents after it was reported to the Internal Affairs Bureau, but halted that investigation once federal prosecutors became involved.
“Because [Sandino] is being charged with civil rights violations, we cannot charge him with the underlying crimes because that’s what the [federal] charges are based on,” Ryan said. “We can’t charge him with the same crime if they charge him with it federally. We cannot charge him locally on the same set of facts.”
Ryan said the prosecutor turned the investigation over to federal authorities once it was discovered Sandino may have assaulted multiple women.
“One of the incidents is outside our jurisdiction,” he said. “When we learned of the federal involvement in this investigation, we had originally started an investigation and we referred our findings to them.”
Investigators said Sandino engaged in “sexual misconduct” on at least three separate occasions with women he arrested during drug investigations. In the February 2008 incident, the alleged female victim claimed Sandino took her to a bedroom in the back of her apartment and forced her to undress while he watched. In a police vehicle later that evening, he asked her, “What are you willing to do for your kids?” and added in Spanish, “How did your children come into the world ... you had to be bedded,” he said, later adding, “You don’t have to give me your answer now,” according to the woman’s civil complaint.
The complaint said Sandino took the woman into an interrogation room at the police station later that night and asked her, “What’s your answer?”
His partner later entered the room, according to the complaint, and told the woman Children’s Services could take her children away if she did not cooperate with their investigation. Sandino later told her he was married with two children about the same age of the alleged female victim.
“If you agree, I will rip up the papers,” he said.
He later led her to a stall in the bathroom, where he molested and sodomized her, according to the complaint. He gave her his cell phone number and ordered her to contact him later for sex or he would contact Children’s Services. When she did not contact him he called and sent her text messages multiple times, according to the complaint. She recorded some of the conversations for evidence and later filed a complaint with NYPD Internal Affairs before filing her lawsuit the following year.
The Elmhurst woman was never charged with a crime for the incident, according to her attorney.
“The citizens of New York expect and deserve honest police officers,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said about the case. “There is a trust that must exist between law enforcement and the citizens, and Detective Sandino allegedly broke that trust.”
The NYPD declined to comment on the investigation, issuing only a statement from Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“I want to commend the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau for its important work in uncovering police misconduct and in bringing to justice those who dishonor themselves and the department,” he said.
Reach reporter Chauncey Alcorn by e-mail at calcorn@cn
©2010 Community News Group
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