Philly Police Officer Charged With Attempted Extortion

Thomas Vitanovitz, 32, is accused of unlawfully seizing 50 pills from a drug dealer last year.

L: Courtesy of Dave Connor | R: By U.S. government via Wikimedia Commons

L: Courtesy of Dave Connor | R: By U.S. government via Wikimedia Commons

A Philadelphia Police Officer was charged Monday with attempted extortion of an alleged drug dealer, according to documents filed by U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.

Thomas Vitanovitz, 32, is accused of falsely claiming official right in unlawfully taking 50 pills, which he believed to have been some sort of illegal drug, from an alleged dealer last July 21st, according to charging information provided by federal prosecutors.

During a phone interview with the Inquirer Monday, Vitanovitz said he developed a “pill problem” after shoulder injuries he attained on the job led to two surgeries and a pain pill prescription. He also said he checked into rehab the morning after the arrest, and he plans to plead guilty.

“Even though I lost my job and I have a tough time ahead of me, they pretty much saved my life,” Vitanovitz said of the arrest during the interview with the newspaper.

A police spokesman told the Inquirer that Vitanovitz, who worked for the 24th District, has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss.

If convicted, Vitanovitz faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Philadelphia has a checkered recent history with charges against members of its narcotics unit. Six narcotics officers were acquitted last May after being charged with RICO conspiracy and extortion, among other charges. The weeks-long federal trial featured testimony from numerous admitted drug dealers and ended with all six officers found not guilty on all counts.

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