A former Solebury Township detective was sentenced Wednesday to three to 23 months in the Bucks County Correctional Facility after admitting to two thefts and falsifying records to cover his tracks.
Roy Ferrari, 66, a police officer for four decades, blamed his crimes on alcoholism, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in the Vietnam War.
“If I had been in my right mind, none of this would have happened,” Ferrari told Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart. My behavior has ruined me.”
Ferrari pleaded guilty in February to charges of theft, tampering with public records and tampering with evidence. Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to a second theft before being sentenced.
Ferrari resigned when the initial charges were filed in September, and has forfeited his police pension. He told Finley that he intended to commit suicide after being charged, but that his wife intervened. She took him to an inpatient mental health facility in New Jersey, where he stayed for 12 days and began treatment for PTSD and alcoholism. Ferrari said he has been sober since Oct. 11, and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day.
Ferrari’s first charged theft occurred on July 4. While working in plainclothes, the detective stole a four-foot level, valued at $25, from an unoccupied building on Windy Bush Road in Solebury. The theft was captured by a security camera that the property owners had installed because of prior tool thefts.
The owners turned the images over to Solebury Police Chief Dominick Bellizzie. The chief recognized Ferrari as the thief and contacted Bucks County detectives to investigate.
The detectives copied the images onto a second photo card and placed the duplicate into an envelope purporting to come from property owner Charles Ehne. Detectives then created a note, bearing Ehne’s name and a phone number, requesting that police look at the camera card and investigate the thefts. The note explained that Ehne had been unable to view the camera card on his own computer and did not know what evidence might be on it.
The note was placed into the envelope with the photo card and given to Chief Bellizzie. On Sept. 18, Bellizzie handed the envelope to Ferrari and asked him to look into Ehne’s complaints.
Ferrari viewed the photo card and recognized himself in the images. He then called the phone number on the note, which was answered by a county detective pretending to be Ehne.
Ferrari told the detective that there were no images on the photo card documenting any thefts or any person who might have committed them. He then drafted a false police report and deleted the incriminating images from the photo card.
Three days later, when confronted by detectives, Ferrari admitted that he had taken the level. He blamed it on a momentary lapse in judgment.
A second theft surfaced after Ferrari’s resignation. An Apple laptop computer that had been held as evidence in a burglary investigation was found in the trunk of Ferrari’s unmarked police vehicle.
Ferrari had received the computer into evidence in 2013 from a police department in Massachusetts where a burglary suspect had been arrested. A detective took the laptop to an FBI lab for analysis, which showed that Ferrari had been using it for personal emails and web browsing, rather than storing it as evidence.
Detectives determined that the laptop was registered to a Lower Makefield resident who had reported it stolen in 2013. The suspected burglar has since died of a heroin overdose, said Deputy District Attorney Robert James, who prosecuted Ferrari.
Questioned by Finley about his theft of the level, Ferrari said, “I just did it and I can’t explain it.” When asked why he tried to cover it up, he said, “I couldn’t admit to myself that it was me” in the photos. “So I lied.”
James told Finley that Ferrari, instead of taking full responsibility, had criticized Bellizzie. Ferrari complained to the chief that, instead of having him investigated, Bellizzie should have handled the matter internally and simply fired him.
“The expression we all know is that the cover-up is worse than the original crime,” Finley said. “That is certainly the case here.”
In addition to the jail sentence, Finley placed Ferrari on five years of concurrent probation and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service. The judge said public officials should be held to a higher standard when they abuse the public’s trust.
“You betrayed your family, you betrayed your community, you betrayed your badge when you fabricated these records,” Finley said.